Email this citation

Lives of Grandmothers: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina

Lives of Grandmothers (Rosalina Malungana)
Kondissa Khosa


10 May 1995, Facazisse

R: My mother's father, ah, since he was one of Ngungunyana's robbers, he had many wives. Eee! [laughs] Mmm. Even those who came running from Beira, up there. Now, when he went out there with Ngungunyana, they were traveling around, snatching up lands and lands—they had many wives. Because they say that my grandfather, the father of my mother, he didn't kill women. No. He just grabbed them, to go home with him. Some pretty ones, to be his wives. [laughs]
H: What was this grandfather's name?
R: He is N'waXumana, Tivane. He was one of Ngungunyana's heroes. . . .
H: Do you know how many wives your grandfather had?
R: Eee! Mm-mm. He had more than thirty, that one.
H: More than thirty?!
R: Eee! He did. The wives that came with him, yee! Kondissa, she was the first wife. And there was N'waMbalana, there was N'waMuyeketi, there was Dlandlaza, there was Dzimakaze. But each of them had to go home to fetch a nhlantswa [younger sister]. And these tinhlantswa weren't just taken, no. N'waXumana gave lovolo [bridewealth] for them, usually eight head of cattle [for each]. I even remember another wife of N'waXumana—Nyankalane. Mmm. And that one had two tinhlantswa. Mmm. They were VaChopi, from Inharrime, over there. . . . Because when, when he has here one wife ... that wife had to go fetch two more of her sisters, there at her house. To give to her husband. These are tinhlantswa. Nhlantswa is, the second or third wife from the same house. Taken by the first wife. Mmm. . . . It's obligatory, to do that. Whether she wants it or not, but when there are some pretty ones, ah! Heidi, imagine, [your husband says] "Why don't you go home and fetch a nhlantswa for me?" And so one day, I'm speaking with my father, and I say, "Eh, my husband wants a nhlantswa." "Ah, okay. Call your sisters. Look here, your sister says that her husband wants a nhlantswa. Now you, and you," or maybe one of them he wants. You take her to your husband. Mmm. That's why my grandfather had many children, eee! But later, when he died, who could have put up with that? Each one, each wife, had to go back to her home, with her children, and build houses to live there, with her sisters. Each one had to do that. She took her daughters and went to live with them, even there in Zavala, there in Muchopes, they have there the children of N'waXumana. . . .

The mother of my mother, who is my grandmother, she was the nkosikazi [chief wife] of my grandfather. She was Kondissa, Kondissa Khosa. Eh-heh. [laughs] Mmm. She was Kondissa Khosa. 1 And those wives, they worked for my grandmother. Her field, she didn't work it. They had to go [cultivate for her], because the nkosikazi was very respected, here at home. She was a queen! . . . But each wife, with her children, had to make her own house there, and her own granary for corn. . . . And there, in the yard, it was huge. [Kondissa] had a huge house, divided into many rooms inside. Mmm. And where she lived all alone. And she had there a room for bathing, where one of the wives, any one, would be called by my grandmother, to go pour water there, for her husband to take a bath. Ordered by my grandmother. . . . Meanwhile there in the yard, it is full of people, Heidi! Who came to drink byala [maize beer].

There was always byala there, for people in the area to come and drink, there in Mazimhlopes. . . . But Kondissa Khosa, she wasn't of Ngungunyana's race, no. She was born there in Mazimhlopes. . . . And yet my grandmother wasn't . . . one of those who were grabbed in the war, no. Even, they even say that my grandfather, he was already very old when he courted my grandmother. Mmm. He saw here a pretty girl, he said, "I want that girl, because she is beautiful, I want her for myself." He said that to her family, her parents. [laughs] And since he already had lots of cattle, it wasn't difficult for him to give what her parents wanted. Lovolo. And later, he brought other wives home. . . . My mother used to say, "Hee! In my father's house we had everything! Meat, milk, everything. And he commanded slaves, those he brought home with him."

H: N'waXumana also brought slaves home?
R: Mmm. From the places where he apprehended them. Even, my mother, she even knew how the speak the language of Beira.
H: How is that?
R: Because she, there were other wives there from Beira, that they brought in the time of the war, in the time of Ngungunyana. Ho! They went to Beira, Sena. . . . And [N'waXumana] also had two women from Beira. My grandfather.
H: And they taught your mother their language?
R: Eee. They spoke there, with her. And they went around learning the language of here, and also when they were playing, they taught their own language.

3 June 1995, Facazisse

R: Even, my grandfather, he used to use—have you never seen in photographs, from the time of Ngungunyana, they used this black thing, that they put on their head?
H: The men, you mean?
R: Mmm. It was like this [demonstrates coiling head-ring around head] And then, above it they put feathers, like chicken feathers, but those feathers came from the Tlulu-tlulu bird [Lourie], which had red wings, but beautiful! They even shone! . . . The women, they used to anoint their hair with red ochre, you know. They raised their hair up high, to show that they are, they are the wives of great people. Eeh. It's to show that they are the wives of the chief. It wasn't all the women. It was the wives of that, that chief, those heroes. Kondissa did it too. She had hair like that. And then, she had a cord, very fine, that she rolled thus, around her hair, there up above. Mmm. Then they put, with that red powder, here, in her hair. Mmm. They say it was beautiful. 2

25 June 1995, Facazisse

R: They even say that my grandfather always had to drink that medicine [murhi] I was telling you about. 3 Mmm. Those wives, they had to keep their pots filled with that stuff, so that he would sleep here, in this hut, with that wife. And the whole muti [homestead] knew that, this week, he's sleeping in the hut of Kondissa, or he's sleeping in the hut of Dzimakaze, or wherever. Yah. But, here where he spends a whole week, in this hut, when he finishes this time, he has to leave. To go to [another] hut. One week. . . . Mmm. That's so that there will be no jealousy. But they say that there was one night, when he went around there, fulfilling his desires, with all his wives, because of that murhi. It gave strength, strength, strength, to go around with all of those wives! But when he woke up in the morning, he's here, because everyone knows that he sleeps here, this week. But at night, he went out there, knocking on the door to attend to that one. A little later, he opens the door, he goes over there. Later when he sees that the dawn is already breaking, he comes to knock on the door [of the hut where he should be sleeping]. But when he left here, he left after he had already done what he should do with that wife! Mmm. So there would be no jealousy, [with that wife saying] "With me, he did nothing!"

Lives of Grandmothers: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina



Note 1: Rosalina later recalled that Kondissa also "went home to fetch a nhlantswa"—in this case, Kondissana, one of her brother's daughters (and her namesake).  Back.

Note 2: Liesegang notes that this royal women's hairstyle "reflected Nguni culture" and was called xifoko in Shangaan. Kondissa, married to an Nguni warrior, was not Nguni herself, and her adoption of the hairstyle may have been a conscious strategy to pass as Nguni, or it may have been a method of adornment she was more or less required to adopt because of her marital status. See Gerhard Liesegang, "Notes on the Internal Structure of the Gaza Kingdom of Southern Mozambique, 1840-1895," in Before and After Shaka: Papers in Nguni History, ed. J. B. Peires (Grahamstown: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Rhodes University, 1981), 185.  Back.

Note 3: Rosalina had just told a long story about men's use of guxe, a plant, to increase their sexual potency.  Back.


Binding Memories: Women as Makers and Tellers of History in Magude, Mozambique