Saturday, November 6, 2010

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Eye witness Account of the Funeral of Chief Mmbelwa I in 1891.

  • Saturday, November 6, 2010
  • Samuel Kadyakale
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  • The following is an account, by an eye-witness, of the funeral of the Angoni chief, Mombera, who died in 1891:—

    ' Men were there from all parts of the tribe, sitting in the cattle-kraal—an immense enclosure open to the sky. Before the grave was dug, one of his brothers jumped up, and placing his hands behind his head, advanced towards the place of burial, mourning all the time and performing a sort of waltzing movement. All the men at the same moment jumped to their feet and stood mourning. After this subsided, the digging of the grave was proceeded with. It was not finished till next day. Meanwhile, companies of people were coming and going, and on entering the village, stood mourning and crying at the top of their voice, "Baba be! Baba be!"1 Before the body was brought out, there was a curious procession of his wives on their hands and knees to the grave, decorated with great bunches of feathers that only the chief is allowed to wear. Soon after, the body was brought in, rolled in cloth, and deposited in the grave in a sitting posture with his face to the east. This was the signal for all jumping up, and closing round the grave in a big circle, and there mourning and rending the air withcries. Only men were allowed in the kraal at this time. (The Zulus never allow women in the cattle kraal at any time.) They stood with their shields over their heads, crying out. Afterwards the young men came marching in in companies and stood mourning for a little, then retired. Meanwhile they were depositing in the grave along with him an immense amount of calico, dresses, etc. — I dare say the accumulation of years; cooking-pots, drinking-vessels, mats, and pipes also went in. During this time, the women were mourning in their own style and causing a fearful din. They appeared as if bereft of their senses, catching one another, and going through some queer movements.'

    Note
    1. Baba ='father'

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