A ChiChewa song from the southern region of Malawi about the perils of matrilocal marriage. The singer has married into “a women’s village”, Njenjema, where the land is inherited through the female line and everything is controlled by the wife’s family. He, however, has worked in the mines of South Africa, and has invested his savings in a house with a corrugated iron roof. The marriage ended in divorce and he lost his investment when the chief presiding over the traditional court ruled the sheets of iron must remain for the sake of the children. The song is by Edwin Sankhulani and was recorded at Njenjema in August 1982.

At Njenjema, do not dare
At Njenjema, do not dare
to build an iron-roofed house
when you live in a women’s village.
At Njenjema, do not dare
At Njenjema, do not dare
to build an iron-roofed house
when you live in a women’s village.
When you complain after the divorce,
after the divorce, you go to Mbiza’s (1)
Mbiza just says, Leave the iron sheets
because you have children!
When you complain after the divorce,
after the divorce, you go to Mbiza’s:
Mbiza just says, Leave the iron sheets
because you have children!
When I come I stand a distance away
weeping.
Father,
I am crying for my iron sheets
My iron sheets hurt me,
Father
My iron sheets hurt me,
Father
My iron sheets hurt me,
Father
My iron sheets hurt me.

from Magomero: Portrait of an African Village,
by Landeg White.
(Cambridge University Press, 1987).


Footnotes

  1. Mbiza, the chief presiding over the ‘traditional court’, applying customary law to family disputes.