Monday, 6 February 2012

Our Black Staff on the Farm

            I do not know who our black labourers on the farm were when we moved to Hopewell but I will tell about some of those who worked for us over the years and what I do remember about them.  They all had a lot of children as they did not practice any type of birth control.  Each family had their own huts away from the others as they did not want to have any problems with their poultry or animals.  These people were not amaXhosas but amaFengu although they spoke isiXhosa.  Today they call themselves amaXhosas for political purposes.
            From the Internet we read –The name amaFengu means "wanderers" and the Fingo nation was formed from the tribes that were broken up and dispersed by Shaka and his Zulu armies in the Mfecane wars. Most of them fled westwards and settled amongst the Xhosa. After some years of oppression by the Gcaleka Xhosa (who called the Fengu their "dogs"), they formed an alliance with the Cape government in 1835 and were invited by Sir Benjamin d'Urban to settle on the banks of the Great Fish River in the region that later became known as the Ciskei. They subsequently became notable allies of the Cape Colony in the frontier wars against their former oppressors. In this capacity, they won several victories against their Xhosa enemies (particularly the Gcaleka Xhosa), and through shrewd and successful management of regional trade, formed a developed and materially successful nation. In addition, many bought farms and started businesses in the small towns that were springing up in that part of the Cape frontier.”
            There was old Tuben who was too old to work, his married son Kaiser, had two wives, noWanted and noAmen.  When a man married he gave his bride a new name so he must have wanted the first one very badly and as he could not afford a third wife he called the second Amen!  These two women were very jealous so Kaiser had to make sure that they were both pregnant at the same time.  There were hordes of kids but I can remember only noWanted’s two eldest who were named uDoen and noMama.  I saved Doen’s life once when he was drowning.  Doen used to live with his grandfather for who he had to mind goats and cook.  The old man did not have a wife but had another son called Nos who was a reliable and very pleasant young chap.  When he turned 18 it was decided that he had to be initiated.  He would enter the bush where a crude hut would be built for him and where he would stay for 3 months while being instructed how a man should behave.         
            Early one morning he was circumcised by a competent old man with a sharpened assegai.  His wounds were dressed with the leaves of a sore eye flower’s bulb and bandaged (The bulb is similar to an onion).   His whole body was painted white with clay and he wore only a skirt made from coarse grass.  He was the only boy to undergo this procedure for the transformation from youth to manhood on our farm that year.  During this period he would have to find food for himself and would be assisted by boys who brought him cooked whole mealies known as iinkobe.  I often went with the boys to help him gather firewood and hunt for small animals.  His father and the other men on the farm would visit him at night relating the history of his tribe and instructing him how to be a man.  Many of these evenings would be spent by the men drinking beer and they would go home in happy moods.  He, however, was only allowed to observe.  After three months he would have to burn down the hut with all his boyhood belongings.  He would then be welcomed back into the community as a man with gifts and he would now be painted with special red clay!  Everybody would now have to call him Boetie and he would be allowed to flirt with girls.
            The other men on the farm were Gilbert the ox wagon & plough driver, old George and his son-in-law Pay.  Piet was the milkman, he had never married but had two retarded sisters who would bring home a baby each every year.  There was old Joe who only had one child in his old age, a boy named Zolele, who he had circumcised and initiated at 16 and for who he found a wife immediately after that so he could see his grandchildren before he died.  Old Joe had many cattle and goats.  He left us to go and work for Mr Eb Long who wanted an old cow herd and a young man to train in the shop.  They were Ideal as Zolele could read and write.
            I did not mean to write so much but once my memory box opened, the stories just kept tumbling out.
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