Mutambo and Waponwa

Waponwa et Mutambo

Mutambo is certainly the most intelligent young girl I have met. She has waited nearly six weeks before letting me know that she could speak English. At first I caught her saying one or two words. Once she felt more confident, she uttered a few sentences then she started a discussion. She has been the key to my exchanges during the first months, when my learning otjihimba was stuttering.

She teaches me the name of trees, of fruit (always called wild fruit whatever the fruit …) of cereal … etc. She is very expressive; she often makes faces at me, an art in which I am also quite an expert. She is the one who told me I am a child. One evening, near the sacred fire, she asks me “do you have a wife?” I answer that I no longer have one. Then she asks me if I have any children. I answer no. She remains silent for a few seconds and then she adds:  “but so you are a child!”  I have learnt much that night about Himba culture … And maybe about myself too.

Waponwa is as close to Mutambo as Titi and Warimisa are to each other. Being very close in age, they are inseparable. Waponwa resents not being able to speak English and she would like to speak more with me. She often asks neighbours how they managed to learn the English language. As a result, we exchange superb looks. The most intent looks are also the more furtive in the light of the sacred fire. As she is rather fragile in health, I have had to nurse her more than once. In order not to disturb a balance I don’t master, my main medicine is a bottle of coke to hydrate her with sugar and salt.

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