Alhajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD); Ama Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66; the Most Paramount Native Authority Mzee Mandela, Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD), and I, Malawi’s only Mohashoi, are here in the Republic of Tongaland to commemorate and celebrate the people who were martyred 58 years ago to gain freedom for all the peoples of the current Federal Republic of Malawi, our corrupt but corrigible country.
Last night we visited Lisukwi to see relations we have not set eyes on for over 20 years. While there, Tambwachalu, an ageing aunt told us the tale below about the hunter, the dog and the cockerel (Chiwinda, Galu ndi Tambala).
Once upon a time, well before the land of Utonga was divided into countries, and countries into regions or provinces, and provinces into districts or counties, people lived symbiotically with animals of the deep forests, fishes of the deep waters, insects of the thick night, and birds of cool but sometimes stormy skies.
Once in a while crocodiles, lions, hyenas, anacondas and hawks smiled at a passing human being and even allowed to be caressed. Once in a rare while people and animals lay side by side as they basked in the sun listening to the rolling rhythm of Lake Utonga waves.
During this period, people of Utonga hunted animals, not for trophies, not for charms, nor even for voodoo concoctions but food only. They caught fish for food and not for sale. They hunted birds as alternatives to usual game not to tame and cage. Even the animals, the fish and the birds accepted that to be hunted down, caught and eaten was normal.
People, too, accepted that to be hunted down by lions and other animals of prey was normal. After all, that was the nature of symbiosis as promoted by the law of eating. In the Utonga of those days and nights, the law of eating meant that the strong and clever ate the weak and clueless.
As seasons passed, a man named Jendaija decided to start taming animals to help in hunting. Jendaija tamed an animal which he called Dog and a bird which named cokerel. To raise Dog into a full ferocious and fearless hunter, Jendaija often tethered Dog to a pall under the shade of a Dudu Chinthechi tree where Jendaija would bring meals for Dog to eat while chained to the tree. Cockerel was kept in free range and picked food from around the yard.
Despite his restricted freedoms, Dog was pleased that at least he was able to enjoy food without sweating too much for it. When Jendaija took Dog into the forest to hunt, Dog performed very well by leading game into Jendaija’s path where Jendaija would spear it unto lifelessness. Sometimes Dog would run after the animal until he caught it alone. He would take it in his mouth and hand it over to Jendaija to take home.
Dog was often rewarded with the offal of the animal, which he would eat as Cockerel looked on in amazement. When cockerel approached Dog’s meal, Dog would growl and jump at cockerel. Cockerel would flip his wings and fly away leaving Dog to eat in tethered peace.
One evening, Dog and Jendaija sat near a fire atop of which lay a carcass of an antelope they had just hunted. To ensure that the carcass was properly roasted, Jendaija kept turning it from side to side to let the animal fat drip into the open fire sending the aroma of roasted flesh into the neighbourhood. Once in a while Jendaija chipped out a small piece to taste. He ate the flesh and threw the bone on the floor for Dog to pick.
When the roasting was over, Jendaija took the roasted carcass into his hut leaving Dog there at the fireplace, salivating. After securing the meat in the hut, Jendaija came back to tether Dog to the Dudu Chinthechi tree. One day, Dog gathered courage and confronted Jendaija.
“Jendaija,” Dog started, “I have a bone to pick with you!”
“What’s the problem, dear,” Jendaija responded caressing Dog.
“Don’t call me, dear. Call me fool,” Dog answered.
“Why? I look after you very well. Each time we hunt an animal I leave the most succulent parts for you, Dog.”
“Yes. Offal is soft, easy to chew, ingest and digest!”
“Ah?” Dog exclaimed, adding,”from today you get the offal and eat the bibi and the undigested grass in the intestines and you give me the rest of the carcass!”
“But you can’t make a fire and roast an animal!”
“Who can’t make a fire? Me?”
“Well, I don’t think you have the brains to do so,” Jendaija challenged.
“Well, wait until the next hunt!”