Mother of Wisdom
She had told me that this would be my fate. It was on the morning I came running to her dome after I received my first maono.
“Msafiri, you are not supposed to be here.” Mahekima said. “Go back to your mother’s dome before she sees that you are missing!”
It must have been the mjuzi burning on the grass mat, or maybe I was still under the influence of my maono, either way, I did not budge.
“I don’t want any trouble! Your people have always believed that a child born on the night of the Kivuli Kusafisha, is nothing but a curse to the Mganga.”
I was only eleven. But my skin had grown thick. As a child born on the night of the Kivuli Kusafisha, I was well-acquainted with rejection. I was shunned by my people before I could even say my name. Until that morning in Mahekima’s dome, the reason was an untold secret that even my own mother kept from me. Mahekima was pouring nguruwe oil on her hands to pray to our god, Mungu.
“Bibi, I have come to tell you that I received a maono last night.” I said. “It told me the Mganga will soon forget their healing powers. It told me we will never be able to move again. Unless I find the machungu plant.”
She looked at her oily hands and ran them through her hair. She then took my hands, and applied the oil on both of them, placed them on her face and with a sombre voice she said;
“Msichana mdogo! I am afraid not even your maono can stop the inevitable.” She released my hands. “Now go home before your mother realizes you are gone.”
I left her dome with more questions than I had come with. All of them unanswered.
It had been five years since the Mganga had settled on the Kidani Riverbank. That’s how long it took us to restock our supply and reload our livestock for our next excursion. The Mganga were a nomadic tribe gifted by Mungu with the powers of healing through natural methods.
We had completed our stop routine and we were ready to shift to our next location. We were set to travel to Pwani ya Mapomoroko. A mkutano was summoned by the wazee where all the Mganga were gathered. I was sixteen and had started to grasp my maono powers. I escaped my mother’s dome and teleported to the mkutano. I hid at the top gallery. Mahekima was also a member of the wazee and I saw her running her hands through her hair. Mwana Mwezi, stood up from his seat. He was never one to speak at the mkutano. He would always sit in his chair with a grave expression on his face. It was quite unexpected to have him address us.
“Mkusanyiko wa waganga!” His voice trembled as he saluted. The mkutano was dead silent. Mahekima was looking at her hands. “I do not know how to say this without causing alarm. I too, have been chewing it over and over again in my mind with the other wazee and it is still hard to swallow. So here it is.” As he took a deep breath in, I, and perhaps everyone else in the mkutano, did the same. “We will not be leaving Kidani today.”
He revealed to us that we were in the midst of a janga kabwa and it had reached our taifa. The Ulimwengu declared that no one should move. We were implored to remain immobile and practice social distancing for this was an airborne virus. The wakuu would be stationed outside every dome providing all the necessary essentials such as face masks.
“Indeed, this is a dark time,” Mwana Mwezi said. “But we have faith that Mungu will protect us, and soon, we will make our way to Pwani ya Mapomoroko.”
When I turned twenty-five, my mother was very ill. The Janga Kabwa had killed thousands of my people, while the rest were fatally sick. When I look back now, I can attest that it was an orchestrated disaster. We had exhausted the Kidani Riverbank resources and we could not move; as a result, we could no longer practice our healing. In a matter of ten years, we forgot who we were. The Mganga had lost their power. Yet the Ulimwengu was nowhere to be found. After the tenth wave, they stopped showing their faces on our screens. They stopped speaking about the virus on the live streams. They vanished into thin air. While the immobility laws intensified.
One night before bed, I burnt some mjuzi I had received from Mahekima as a birthday gift. I prayed to Mungu to help me and my people. I do not remember at what point during my prayer did I suddenly slip into a maono, but I packed a bag and teleported all the way to Pwani ya Mapomoroko. My maono had never teleported me beyond the Kidani. It felt like a trance. I went directly to the cracked rock and inside the crack, I found the machungu plant.
I washed my face with the water falling out the rock and thanked it for the plant. Then I teleported back to my mother’s dome. I boiled water in the fire place inside her chamber and threw the plant in the pot. When the water turned green, I scooped it up with a cup and woke up my mother.
“Mama, wake up. I have found the cure.” She took one sip, and her face lit up as the tea brought life back into her body. She turned to me and said, “Msafiri, binti yangu! I remember.”
I was supposed to be pleased by my mother’s awakening. But Mahekima had told me the truth that day in her dome on my eleventh year; not even my maono, could stop the inevitable.