Thursday, October 6, 2011

Umbhaco for umama wam

The marvels of technology mean that my family in Canada can almost immediately put a face to the name of my favourite cleaning lady and isiXhosa teacher, Maradi, from the WSU office in South Africa.  And it also means that I can show a woman, who may never have sat in front of a computer, photos of my family and even her own photo on a blog!

The reaction of Maradi to seeing herself on my laptop and blog was priceless.  As I fumbled for words in isiXhosa to explain that “I write stories to my family over the ocean about my works in South Africa and put it on the computer”, she immediately was so proud and excited that my Canadian family knew who she was. 

So she then asked me to bring my camera to the office and she would bring her umbhaco or traditional dress to work and we would have a photo shoot so that umama wam (my mother) could meet Maradi and give her reactions to her beautiful and intricate outfit. 

I was sitting in my office with the door closed when all of a sudden I heard singing in the distance.  Maradi came singing, dancing, and stomping down the hallway with 3 of the other cleaning ladies as her entourage and they made quite the noise and spectacle.  The artfully layered skirt also has bells attached so when you move, it makes a loud tinkling sound.  The painting on the face is made with calamine lotion - who knew?  You see women wearing these dresses at traditional events; for example, Maradi recently wore this when her son came back from the bush for the very important  circumcision ceremony.

I took the many photos and then Maradi proudly showed off her umbhaco to the office where everyone declared, “awusemhle?” or “aren’t you beautiful?”

So, now, Maradi is waiting for my mom, about 17,000 kilometres away in Winnipeg, to comment on her dress and know that she is taking good care of her daughter!

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