Thursday, June 04, 2020

Part Two, Domestic Tranquility

FROG HOSPITAL -- June 5, 2020

Part Two, Domestic Tranquility

By Fred Owens

This is the beginning of Part Two of the African Story. Part Two will describe the incredible journey to Malawi, going way back into the mountains, to the little village of Chembe, where Mataka's ancestors are buried and where he grew up. Precious and I took him there, but also we took Aunt Marji and Aunt Winnie, to make a jolly family expedition back to the roots. I myself, being fully and legally married into this family, was welcomed to Chembe village as a long-lost relative come home.

But let's go back to the wedding on September 1, 1997, when Precious and Frederick became united. Very quickly after the wedding, an atmosphere of deep domestic tranquility descended on our rented home at 21 Shottery Crescent. We simply enjoyed ourselves. Our spirit is displayed in this wonderful back yard photo, showing Precious and me in a standoff. This pose tells the entire history of man versus woman. She is in her bathrobe with her hair done up and wearing a pair of blue slippers --- my slippers, in fact, feeling free to borrow them. She has her arms crossed. He has his hands in his pockets. Nobody is giving an inch. These are very stubborn people. Yet it seems playful, and it was. So our life unfolded in our rented castle, as we planned the honeymoon homecoming journey to Malawi.


I told you last week that we would interrupt the narrative with other things, like an opinion. I try to keep opinions out of the story and to just let things unfold. But this interlude is a good place for such argument.

I have not studied the problem in an academic sense, but I did live in Africa for a year and did marry and live with an African woman for 7 years, and I might have learned something. So here's my opinion on the whole situation. African men live like kings, they get waited on hand and foot and so they have no incentive to improve their circumstances, why give up such a good thing? At Mataka's house the ladies sat outside the kitchen door on woven mats on the ground. The men sat in chairs on the front porch. I never saw a man sit on the ground on a mat. I never saw a woman get preferred seating on the front porch.
The men aren't going to upset the mango cart. They drink their beer and let the women do all the work.
The best way to change that is to make sure that the young girls get good schooling. If they get those learning tools from good instruction then they can turn the entire continent upside down and make it a better place.
The men would have a little less leisure time, they might even have to fetch their own beer, but you know, c'mon guys, it won't kill you.
How A Daughter Loves Her Father
Grace Sibanda, a cousin to Precious, wrote this memory of her father, Smiley Sibanda. Smiley was uncle to Precious and we often visited his nice home in the Nketa Nine neighborhood. Grace writes in the local dialect of African English. I found it easy to understand and had no desire to correct her choice of spelling and grammar. I found her writing to be powerful and heartfelt. Grace is a young woman who lost her father and she expressed her admiration for Smiley and the grief she has endured since his passing.
Smiley dick sibanda, 3born of patrick mataka. My dad was a down 2 earth father, he was a go 2 guy, most reliable, trustworthy and a wonderful counselor .Smiley worked at the Kango factory as the machine operator. He started work there at an early age of 18. He worked there till the time of his passing. Smiley was married 2 Catherine Phiri (my mum) who is a Zambian. Together they had a small family, Grace and Duncan. My dad had no car but he had a bike which by that time was the best mode of transport given 2 workers by their employers. He would go to work and knock off 4pm, get home freshen up and go to tavern to have a beer or two with his friends. He never liked the traditional beer but he enjoyed his Castle, and he smoked Kingsgate cigarettes.

After whiling time with his friends he would come home watch tv and spend time with us, and he never missed supper with us. His favourite meal was pap and cow heels, cow insides and vegetables.On weekends he used spend most of the time with the societies he had formed, several clubs and burial societies. He was the secretary and in some he was the treasury, and when his favourite team played he would go and watch his team play. His favourite club was highlanders club. In his family he was one man they relied on be it wedding, funeral, parties his input was essential, a very smart man he was, and clean, he loved his formal suits, weekends he wore jeans and t-shirts.

My dad was a loving man who showed me so much in life, he valued education and he always strived for us to have the best in terms of education and life. I was daddy's girl. Smiley never got sick he just complained of feeling cold. We went to the hospital they took some test and gave him some pain stoppers. We went back home and there was no change. On the second day he passed away. I spoke with him on that day. I left the room and after he spoke to my mum, then he passed away peaceful. Smiley had a good fight in life. He might have passed on when we still wanted him but he had an amazing life which he enjoyed.

(Then I asked Grace if she remembered my visits to her home in 1997)

Yes I always loved to see you, back in the days seeing a white man close to blacks was a rare experience, and I know my parents loved to host you. Remember the two trees you planted in our home, mulberry and figs, they still standing and my mum has memories, wonderful memories.

So that is how a daughter loves her father, as Grace loved Smiley. She can tell more stories  about her life in Zimbabwe -- her husband, her children, her mother, her work, her happiness and her sorrows. Write back to us and tell us if you liked her story and we will pass this on to her.
I would like it if Grace told us more of her story.


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