Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ghosts, monsters and heroines

I was going through old emails when I came across a short story idea from my sister Debbie.

Our home in Phokeng is at the edge of the village, near what used to be Legadigadi dam ( it dried up and now it's just a big dry hole).

Past the dam, over the bridge, you climb up the steep incline towards Tshufi Hill, which is part of the range of mountains that led to the nearby town to be called Rustenburg (meaning rest between the mountains.)

As I mentioned previously on this blog, when I was growing up, the unoccupied area near my village was half wild, and at night you could hear sounds of jackals and hyena.

We were never afraid of the wild animals, or thought that we were in danger from them. And to my knowledge, there never was an instance where someone was bitten by a wild animal, although people regularly hunted, collected firewood and wild fruit in the forest covering the hill.

Sometimes in the evenings, to pass the time, my mother would tell us stories from books that she read, or make something up.

My mother is the one who introduced me to the craft of storytelling, and a range of characters including a mermaid called Anna, a tragic heroine called Amakeia from an Afrikaans poem and Vera the ghost, who could be found at night at a certain street corner in Rustenburg, asking for a lift. My mother also loved telling us about a community that regularly showed up on Tshufi Hill from noon till one o'clock.

It seemed they were just ordinary people going about their lives eating a mid-day meal, doing laundry, working and taking care of their families, and at 13h00, they'd go poof, and disappear to wherever it is they came from.

Spooky, especially because we did live near the edge of the forest, and if those strange people decided to come off the hill into the village, my family would be one of the first they came across.

Thankfully, these people never seemed to be aware of us, and simply went about their business, my mother said.

We spent hours speculating about who they were, where they came from...( we had no TV, never went to the movies, so no scifi influences there).

However, of all the characters and creatures my mother introduced us to, Manjanja, a monster that lived in a cave on Tshufi Hill and who liked to cart off naughty kids to his cave and cook them, was the scariest of them all. Scarier than even Vera the ghost, who we all thought was real.

When we were older, my sister Debbie and I decided to create our own version of Manjanja. In this new version, Manjanja is also afraid of the kids, although they don;t know it.

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