I was in Watsomba, Mutare recently, my wife’s home area in the countryside (kumusha). It had been a while and was the first time with my children being of an age where they were of an age where they will remember the experience.

When ever a person goes to kumusha there are certain things that make the experience unique. During school holidays we would all go spend some time there. I enjoyed these trips which helped us to know our relatives and we also grew up experiencing two different lifestyles. It gave me a good understanding and appreciation of how simple and joyful life should be. There are a few things that characterised the trip to kumusha;

An inquisitive lone cow on the gravel road.

Cattle Herding

We never had cattle because we were cotton farmers so I never had the experience of herding cattle. But this is a pre requisite for any young boy, just like balancing the water bucket was for the young girls. Again a young city boy would be equally embarrassed if he could not herd cattle, make a whip or whistle (kuridza mheterhwa). While herding cattle was was a daily chore, that is where games were played, scores were settled through fights and cattle got lost or grazed the neighbours crop.

Collecting water from a spring

The Spring which is protected so the animals don’t drink direct from the source

The balancing act

Collecting water

Since there is no running water, there are usually three main sources of water, a borehole, a natural spring or a river/dam. And this means someone has to go and collect that water and bring it to the homestead. This was traditionally a role for the women. Coming from and growing up in the city, this task can be difficult and embarrassing as young girls balance their buckets on their heads and head off chatting making animated gestures with their hands all the while balancing a bucket full of water on their heads.

Cooking over the fire – pachoto

Free range chickens a.k.a road runners

Cooking over the Fire

Nothing beats a little road runner (free range chicken) cooked over a fire. The reward of a a good meal comes after the mandatory chase to catch the chicken, which is how it earned its name, the road runner! Another test for the city dwellers is collecting firewood and lighting a fire. Getting used to the smoke in the kitchen is always a challenge but after one day you become used to it.

Peas and sugar cane

Fresh Produce Garden

Along the river sides there are usually gardens where various garden products are cultivated and supply the family with fresh vegetables.

Madhumbe

Harvest

This last trip took place after the harvest period. During planting season most of the work had to be done early in the morning before the sun came out. It was certainly a good time to get work done as the air was fresh and it was cool outside, but the waking up part wasn’t great. The harvest period was also enjoyable as you were now reaping what you had sown, and all those early mornings were finally paying off.

The Blair toilet

The Homestead

Each homestead comprises of a cluster of buildings. There maybe slight variations but generally a homestead cluster would consist of bedrooms which would also be attached to the lounge, and then separate buildings will include a kitchen, store room for grain and farming tools and extra rooms for extended families. About 30-50metres away would be the blair toilet.

Urimbo

Hunting

Hunting is also part of the joys of going kumusha, though there is a limited amount of game available. We had the opportunity of hunting small game like impala and rabbits, using dogs. As time went by there were less available till there were almost non existent leaving us to settle for birds and mice. For the birds we used urimbo which was a white milky substance which was tapped from the stem of a bush and then cooked over a fire until it would become a sticky glue which we used to catch birds with, this needed lots of patience. Most of the time we used catapults which was a lot more exciting.

Nhunguru

Indigenous fruit

If I had my way I would only eat indigenous fruits instead of apples and pears etc. While you are in kumusha depending on which area you are from, certain fruits are in such abundance that they are not for sale.

Mountains in the distance

Mountain climbing

Conquering peaks was an adventure not to be missed. These would be a whole day excursions filled with exploration and adventure. Certain mountains were considered to be sacred hence we could not climb them.

Vistas of the Eastern Highlands

Night time

The beautiful vistas, especially in the eastern highlands and starlit skies at night are another attraction for me to kumusha. We spend a lot of time gazing in the skies and when there is a full moon visibility will be very good outside. Despite people retiring much earlier, night time was a time for stories as well. Ghost stories and mermaids, sacred areas where people cannot go (nzvimbo dzinoyera). If you do decide to go you would have to ask or sacrifice to the ancestors beforehand and get permission. You were prohibited to say certain things or you will get lost, wandering for days until the spirits are appeased. Some areas considered to be sacred are no longer sacred. Repercussions of violating these sacred areas could lead to, environmental change eg. no rain or even death if certain rituals were not performed as soon as possible.

Kids fascinated by chicks

Swimming & Fishing

Areas where there were rivers or large bodies of water would mean there was always the possibility of catching some fish. And when it got too hot and the fish were not biting we would jump in and swim. Some pools were considered to be inhabited by mermaids which would take children under water for days. The parents of the children were not allowed to cry. If they cried the child would be found deceased floating on top of the water the next day. Instead they had to go to the local n’anga (traditional healer/witch doctor) and perform certain rituals. When the child came out alive he would now also be empowered with the gift of n’anga.

The trip to kumusha was a good experience especially for the kids who would have brand new experiences and broaden their perspectives on life.

The experience is not as rural as it used to be for example from one vantage point I could see 3 Econet boosters. When I came here in 2010 we needed to go on top of a particular hill just to get network but now I even had full 3G access. Electricity is coming through the rural electrification! That was the big buzz and there were guys installing poles. After talking to some of the guys I learnt that all the people who were responsible for digging the holes and clearing the area were all locally based, so it was creating some much needed short term employment. Rivers have dried up, no trees due to deforestation, which have led to a much limited experience and people have become too busy trying to eke out a living. We don’t go kumusha as often as we used to but I made it a point that my children get that experience as well, when ever possible.

What are your experiences of going kumusha, leave your comments.

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