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KaBedroom Burned to Death, Yet Her Spirit Live On


By Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

You could actually see this little grass thatched hut from the road. Standing at the door of Kabedroom, one would immediately face the big field in front, see every car that passes the road, further afield is the family heroes acre/ cemetery and with a stretch of an eye, you will be at Chibonore's farm in Chitowa. Just on the right side is an anthill/churu cheshwa, and then a big muzhanje tree.

Kabedroom aka was for a long long time, an active visible member yaMbuya Peter's homestead. The traditional and typical homestead consisting of a big round kitchen with its the door facing west. It was important that the door should not face where the winds come from or else the fire would be blown away, and the rains would splash through the doors. The big round kitchen domineered, with its grass thatch and chisuvi, at the top.

The big round kitchen was a real multipurpose. Cooking yes, eating, yes. It was and remains a dining room, with varume kubhenji vakadzi pamaponde. It is the lounge and living room for receiving guest, kutandara, and simply hanging out. The big round kitchen was always warm, with fire burning. It was easily converted it into a bedroom, and infact it was the prefered bedroom especially in winter and with not enough blankets to go by.

Then there was the other very important structure, hozi/ granary which stored the food for the family. It sat on four big stones and it was an elevated structure. It carried all the food reserves for the family, maize mumatura, sacks and sacks of groundnuts, another dura rezviyo/ Rapoko, a half sack full of Nyemba/ lentils on the side. Hozi, my goodness, became even more special if there was traditional beer brew. This is where magate ehuno tutumira were kept. Fermenting, frothing and welcoming fresh brew. It was the wine-cellar of sorts. It was the most secured of all the structures at the homestead.

Ambuya Peter kept the keys on her person, the big key on a chain around her neck. It was almost a permanent necklace. If one was sent kuHozi, you were expected to handover the keys as soon as you are done. The architecture was just so advanced, with the elevated floors, and then the structured divisions for Matura inside. In order to enter each dura, there was a small entrance, windowlike in size. Poor lighting and all, gave extra mystic to this special house. Under the hozi, was space for storing bits and pieces, and often chicken would prefer to nest there. Whether during the day or at night, you needed rambe/lamp or extra light kuHozi.

Then kaBedroom. It was the smallest round hut at the homestead, made of bricks and grass thatched. It stood there with confidence and mighty, claiming its own special recognition. Kabedroom had no real furniture inside, and yet it carried all that was there, needed and available.

Door reKabedrom. The first door was rerata, and it would go kwerere kwerere when you opened It. It did not fit properly on the door frame. The measurements did not fit. Therefore the door did not close properly. For safety at night one had to put some heavy something to hold it, usually duri or so. Well, all had to be done to get a better door, and a makeshift one remapuranga came next and it lasted. This one fitted well, and only that one corner was eaten by ants. At night, again extra safety and protection from the cold breeze. Extra measures had to be found. The older sister always in instructed "vasikana pfekerai chitsaga pamusuwo apo mozotsigira door neguyo. There was no real lock from inside, and the best was to lean something heavy on the door as some form of barrier for any intruder.

Mutariro and Suitcases. Clothes for the whole family where kept in this special house. Everything and for everyone. Ambuya Peter and her daughters, grand children and any visitors. It was the room. There was no wardrobe. None. There were only two suitcases, one was an old one handed down from an old aunt. This was the suitcase used for storing all important documents like birth certificates, GMBH cards, hymn book and church register for ruwadzano. This suitcase also carried within it the special clothes, Sunday best for each person and the church uniform. For a long time, the yellow dress with big black buttons found its on place in this suitcase. The other suitcase was never opened except by the owner. It was remuroora who was in Harare. She only opened it when she came home. It had a blanket, a jersey, some black tommy tennis shoes, lifebouy soup, baseline intensive and a night dress! It symbolized another life and another world to be discovered. Body lotion and an night dress!

The rest of the clothes found themselves pamutariro. This was a wire stringed from one pool of the hut to the other usually kuseri kwedoor/back of the door. It was THE real wardrobe. Clothes on a hanger where then just hung on this wireline, neetly, all the way. Each person had a section on this wire string,and one could also hang clothes by the type of garment. Majusi pawo, madresses, pawo, mablouses pawo, zvijasi jasi pazvo. There was art, class and hierarchy to it. Then others like old jerseys where just thrown pamutariro. The rest of the clothes, found themselves pamusoro pemagumbeze, on top of blankets or muzibhavhu. Not all clothes in this big laundry dish/ zibhavhu were dirty or clean. They just got mixed up as the week went by. Saturday was for laundry either at Nyadire River or kunaKatswanda. Sunday was then for ironing and sorting.

Kabedroom, had no real bed as we know it. It was all pabonde
/ reed mat as the floor piece, one blanket repasi, the slightly thin one and two blankets epamusoro. When the family had visitors, of- course it was natural and unsaid, that one of the bankets had to go for the visitor, and then Ambuya Peter in her wisdom would bring old cotton sacks and throw over the top blanket for her girls and vazukuru to manage the winter night. Well, early in the morning, this reed mat was simply rolled and nicely stored behind the door. If someone had wet the bankets at night, this bonde and the under blanket would find their way outside early in the morning, spread for the sun to dry these important pieces, ready to give comfort for the next evening. All the other blankets were neatly folded, placed one on top of the other, kuseri kwedoor ikoko. She was particular, no one should go to school, to the garden or elsewhere without making the bed! Musaende musina kuwarura magumbeze was an injunction.

Then there was this small cupboard, in this Kabedroom, which was the single and only tiny piece of furniture worth of mention. It's history is not fully known, as to whence it came from. It carried the special kitchen utensils, the few china coffee mugs and extra spoons. It had the big red teapot, the yellow round Jug/brake and chidheka. It is the cupboard which stored the flour, sugar and cooking oil, which could not be kept in the kitchen for a number of reasons. The cupboard was important, because in one of the drawers, the girls kept their pens and other school materials. The paraffin lamp had its on place on top of the drawer, and gave a good light to the rest of the house. The lamp would migrate down, when it was bed time, so that it was brought kubonde, to make it easy for blowing off the light, when time came. When all the news and gossip was done, the reading and the night prayers. In almost a whisper, Ambuya Peter would remind, "musakanganwe kudzima rambe asikana, kana mapedza kuverenga".

The floor of Kabedroom went through transformation, just like the door. In its origional form and form and for years, it was the basic, no cement floor. It was nicely done though. Once every month, the floor received a special treat, with smeared crowdung, and then nice second treat with green leaves echowa. This left floor with a nice fresh smell, green colour and all. This had to be done so well with care otherwise it was a disaster. The little bedroom was left open the whole day for ventilation for the sun to shine on the floor and for the smell to disappear. On this day, all the suitcases, the cupboard, the blankets everything had to find its way out in the morning, and then in again in the evening!

Then one day, Ambuya Peter came back from Murewa with 2 bags of cement. She had just sold her maize at the Grain Marketing Board. This had been her dream for a long time, to fix the floor. The following day, the village builder was at the house, everything in this Kabedroom had to be taken out. She was recieving special treatment. A wonderful time it was following this facelift! From then on it was all about buying sunbeam white, cobra floor polish or just making do with home made polish from candles.

Kabedroom, was the real study room. It was fairly cool and quiet. One could read lying on the read mat/pabonde during the day by its shade. One could read sitting at the door facing the road and seeing the buses and cars go buy. One could read loudly if others were still in the kitchen just to feel the pronounciation. In this room, the sisters could talk and compare notes long into the night. They talked about schools, friends, boyfriends, house chores, the weather, and would also argue and quarrel. The big synchornised laughter, chikuweee, could echo long into the night. It was an unwritten code.."zvemukabedroom, zvinoperera mukanedroom". Listening to the small battery powered radio play music or other special programs was a treat. It was in this room that prayers would be said, and many Hail Marys crossed the family lips in times of trials and tribulations, and also moments of joy and celebrations.

Many years later, one of Ambuya Peter granddaughters visited with her. There has now been other improved structures at the homestead, a two roomed house of corrugated iron sheets/ boyska had claimed itself the modern competitor. It now had a wardrobe and some easy sitting chairs and a bed. Yet Kabedroom still commanded its respect among the rest, still had mutariro and a few other stuff. It was now more of a store room than a bedroom.

The granddaughter visiting insisted she wanted to carry the paraffin lamp, while granny carried the basket of groundnuts she wanted to make peanut butter. For a while Kabedroom had not been recieving enough attention and its thatch was falling. The little girl lifted the lamp and the thatch caught fire. Ambuya Peter gave a scream, the little granddaughter ran and equally screamed with fright. Kabedroom' was facing its unexpected death. They managed to salvage everything out, before the roof curved in.

It was a traumatic experience. It was like losing a loved one, one had enjoyed an intimate relationship with for all one's life. And to just be told, she caught fire and is gone. I mourn her today, for she carried my life, and that of many others. In her place now stands a big house of many rooms, with all the comforts of today. Yet, in my hearts of hearts, kaBedroom will always stand out, boldly asserting its own life and contributions. She is celebrated!



JaniceW's picture


I am so deeply moved by this story, and the way you have brought Kabedroom to life for us. When I read this, I was right there in the huts with you.

Your use of imagery brings such richness to this story and I mourn the loss as much as you. I eagerly await your future posts!

Nyaradzayi's picture


Much appreciate your feedback. Have just posted a piece about my mother in law's visit to Kenya....

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