Sunday, 21 December 2014

Yao story of creation

Eons ago, before the dawn of time, God existed only with animals. As in many Bantu creation myths, God and animals were eternal, they have always been there since the beginning of time. They lived in a vast expanse of land and water, and the sky and earth were ever close to each other.

The chameleon was a mythical creature, a fisherman casting his fish traps in the mystical waters. The chameleon has always been an important animal in Bantu myths and legends. It is at the heart of many Bantu tribe creation myths. It is seen as a wise creature and also a herald of life and death.

One day the chameleon had set a fish trap in the vast sapphire waters. He went about his daily business, but when he later on returned to check the trap, he found that he had caught nothing. Chameleon was determined to get a catch, he set the trap again the following day and when he went to check the trap to his surprise he had caught some very peculiar creatures, man and woman.

Man and woman were such tiny creatures, the first of their kind. The chameleon had never seen anything like them and he did not know what to do with them. Man and woman begged the chameleon that he should set them free. Chameleon, confused about what to do decided to take them to God to seek advice as what to do with them. 

God, having seen the tiny creatures told the chameleon not to kill them. He told chameleon that he should set them fee so that they should live to grow to their full maturity. God summoned all the animals of the skies above and the earth and water below to inform them about the creatures and this marked the first encounter of human beings and animals. 

The human beings were smart and learned quickly. They started hunting other animals and the animals lived in fear. Soon the male creature started twirling sticks and smoke started to gather. This caused fear among the animals and they warned man to be careful. Man however did not heed the warning and in the end fire was created. Man created an unstoppable inferno that reduced everything to ashes. The grass thatched roof of God was set alight by the fire, chameleon managed to climb a tree, but God was very old he could not run, spider spun a web to rescue God. From that moment it is said that God said when humans die they shall join him in heaven and serve him as slaves.

This is the creation myth of the Yao tribe of Malawi. This myth has similarities to other creation myths of the Bantu tribes, including the Chewa tribe of Malawi.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Abyss of Zomba plateau, Chingwe's Hole

In the quiet town of Zomba stands a legendary, enormous plateau, known for its splendor. Trees, shrubs, grass and all sorts of flora embrace every inch of it and rivers and streams snake through its beautiful landscape. It is a serene and captivating wonderland, but it wasn’t always a sight of tranquility.

Many years ago, this calm haven was a place of fear and death. What happened on this plateau personified it as a devourer of souls. It had a horrible reputation. This majestic plateau has a cave and legend has it that this cave it bottomless, an abyss into nothingness. Some say it reaches the base of the Rift valley, others give specific depths.

It is said Village chiefs of the surrounding area disposed of their enemies by throwing them down the mouth of the plateau. It was not only enemies of chiefs that met such a hideous fate, but also lepers and people suffering from mental illness. There have also been rumors that political enemies were also silenced this way too.

One can only imagine that others suffered the same. Imagine a tale of love and jealousy, a tale of betrayal and revenge. Or perhaps someone was thrown into the abyss because they saw or heard something the shouldn't have. One of Malawi’s great writers and poets wrote a poem depicting what happened to people.

Glory be to Chingwe’s Hole

Chingwe’s Hole, you devoured the Chief’s prisoners
Once, easy villagers decked in leopard colours
Pounding down their energies and their sight.
You choked minstrel lovers with wild granadilla
Once, rolling under burning flamboyant trees.

Do you remember Frog the carver carving Ebony Beauty?
Do you remember Frog’s pin on Ebony Beauty’s head
That brought Ebony to Life? And when the Chief
Heard of a beauty betrothed to Frog, whose dogs
Beat up the bushes to claim Ebony for the chief?

Even when Fly alarmed Frog of the impending hounds
Who cracked Fly’s bones? Chingwe’s Hole, woodpeckers
Once poised for vermillion strawberries merely
Watched fellow squirrels bundled up in sacks
Alive as your jaws gnawed at their brittle bones.
Chingwe’s Hole, how dare I praise you knowing whose
Marrow still flows in murky Namitembo River below you?
You strangled our details boating your plush dishes,
Dare I glorify your rope and depth epitomizing horror?

Of Chameleons and Gods: Poems by Jack Mpange

One can only imagine what lies beneath. Perhaps there are thousands of bones or items of great value. Whatever the case, the secrets that the victims might have kept have long been taken with them beyond the plains. If you find yourself on the plateau, do you have the courage to gaze through the abyss?