Monday, August 25, 2014

Of Ancient Malawi’s Njeza (Field Of Reeds) and not Kanjedza ( Palm Leaves)?

What some Malawians call Njeza Reeds – Internet photo
A young dread-locked dark-skinned smooth skinned man with a well-shaped black beard holds his breath as he treks into the wilderness to meditate and get in touch with nature and animals among other things.
You see the young Mbona is considered to be one of the best traditional healers (sing’anga) in the area who also uses magic (matsenga) to disappear and turn into various birds and animals go some oral unofficial stories about Mbona.
Now whenever Mbona trekked into the bush he would use a reed locally called Chipala or Mponja but this blog does not know the exact spelling or whether it was consumed or just carried like others.
But anyway this reed would make him not get hungry for a long time and always feel full.  This is the same reed some Sapitwa healers use today to always feel as if they’ve eaten whenever they fast.

One specific healer who does not eat nsima or things like pork is somehow still fat although she does not eat much. 
What some Malawians call Bango reed which in English is Bamboo reed Phragmites
Reeds which some healers call njeza are also said to be found a lot at the mythical Sapitwa on top of Mulanje Mountain.
These are not the leaves of kanjedza (palm leaves) whose dates or whatever they are called are used to make uchema (palm wine) in the Lower Shire.
In ancient Malawi reed mats made from njeza were used as death mats instead of coffins just like in ancient Egypt while papyrus was used for wrapping lepers for medical purposes according to a Sapitwa healer. 
Papyrus (Mululu) and Reeds (Njeza)
Reeds are also something mentioned in the official Khulubvi Mbona stories.
Among the known reeds in Malawi are bango which is scientifically known as Bamboo reed Phragmites, njeza and mululu which is papyrus.  However some in Malawi confuse njeza with mululu because they claim they grow together.
Others like mkeka mats are made from palm leaves which are woven together. Reeds are also used to make mats like njeza and the bango one locally known as mphasa which women use to dry out maize.
The same mphasa, which is a thick mat made of split reeds and used as a bed is also used in funerals as a death mat while the mkeka is a thin made of palm leaves.
Putting the mphasa on the windows of a shop or home is believed to dilute the magical powers of thieves who try to gain access into a building using charms.
In other words the mphasa is a deterrent used by some healers in so many things and Mbona used many types of reeds in his magic.
Historians need to establish if ancient Malawi’s Mbona asking Mlauli to use “a leaf of a reed” to kill him meant they played a role in funerary texts. In the text below the reed used as a knife on magical Mbona’s neck is “bango.’
Mphasa mat made from Bango which
 in English is Bamboo reed Phragmites
 “Pano dzina lake ndi pa Ndione” kapena kuti, “Ndili pano ndigwire….kuti muphe ine tengani mjere, dzani lamtengo, kaya khwaule la bango, mucheke nalo pakhosi langa.  Apo pokha mudzapha ine…..” says Mbona on p.37 of the Ulendo Series Mtunda 8 Chichewa for Standard 8 book.
Mphasa made from bango is also used in figures of speech or expressions in Malawi.  Among them is the expression “kupititsa mwana ku mphasa” which literally means taking the child to the mat but it’s real meaning being the first time a couple is sleeping together after a period following childbirth.
The child is kept between them, so that the warmth of the parents can meet in the child, in order to make it grow and prosper better reads the English Chichewa – Chinyanja Dictionary compiled and edited by Steven Paas.

Another expression is “nanga kumkeka kuli bwanji” which means how is your marital life? Literally it’s how is the mat?
Reeds might be the main thing that might connect many African cultures and countries to some ancient Egyptian beliefs concerning the “Field of Reeds” in their afterlife which is documented in
Now a Sapitwa priestess (ansembe) claims that the Njeza reed when carried would bend down to show the holder had committed something wrong that was being investigated including whether or not a young woman was a virgin before marriage.
Njeza mat
Some Malawians online defined bango (reed) as being sharp on both sides and mnjere as the peel/rind of a sheaf, a shrub of cereal family or the peel of a sugar cane. 
 “Msungwi yomwe amapangira nsengwa or lichero limakhala lakuthwa mbali zonse.”
According to an online document titled ‘Institutions and Ecosystem-Based Development Potentials of the Elephant Marsh, Malawi’, papyrus and reeds grow thickly in the Elephant Marsh and are used locally to make mats, hats, chairs, thatch, granaries, baskets and fishing gear.

“Papyrus is also used as a lining for coffins. Lily bulbs (locally known as nyika) are sometimes eaten for carbohydrates especially in years of poor crop.”
The Egyptian Afterlife in the Fields of Reeds called “Aaru” was a continuation of life in Egypt where pharaohs remained pharaohs, the god s the same and the workers had to work hard among other things.
It’s in these fields where Osiris ruled after he became part of the Egyptian pantheon and displaced Anubis in the Ogdoad tradition.
Weaving mats and stuff made from palm leaves (kanjedza) Photo from

“It has been described as the ka (a part of the soul) of the Nile Delta. Only souls who weighed exactly the same as the feather of the goddess Ma’at were allowed to start a long and perilous journey to Aaru, where they would exist in pleasure for all eternity.
“The ancient Egyptians believed that the soul resided in the heart. Those whose heart did not match the weight of the feather of Ma’at due to their sins were excluded. They were said to suffer a second death when devoured by another being, Ammit, while still in Duat for judgment…
Finished weaving products made from palm leaves (kanjedza) taken from
“Aaru usually was placed in the east, where the Sun rises, and is described as eternal reed fields, very much like those of the earthly Nile delta: an ideal hunting and fishing ground, and hence, those deceased who, after judgment, were allowed to reside there, were often called the eternally living,” further reads

Ancient Egypt’s Field of Reeds

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Took this picture of children in Milange, Mozambique admiring visiting Malawian children

Tracing footsteps to lead me home

Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.

I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.

Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.

I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of Sapitwa and the Sirius star. this space.