Amama a NyaZghovu: Human Angel

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Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.

It was 10:55 hours American time; only 5 minutes from giving a lecture when my computer flashed the unusual Facebook notification from my niece “Martha”. The message said: “Mum passed away this morning”. I was in shock and I immediately canceled my 11:00hours lecture. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I stared blankly out of my office window. This is how I learned of the death of amama a NyaZghovu; my aunt Mrs. J. J. Mayovu who passed away in Lusaka in her home in Chainda Farm in Lusaka on Tuesday February 26 2019. Burial was at Leopards hill cemetery in Lusaka on Friday March 1st, 2019. My estimate is that she was about 77 years old.

Chainda Farm 1996

I must have been 6 years old when I first saw my aunt. It was in 1960 and I was at Seleta Village in Lundazi. I saw a wedding party approaching the village from the Chipewa bush path. My aunt  was a malolokozana (bride in Tumbuka) beautifully dressed. She and my uncle had just come from Kanyanga Catholic Mission where they had held their church wedding. Immediately the whole village began an impromptu celebration, singing, chanting, clapping, and women were nthungulu ululating. My friends Binkhe, Luka and I began jumping up and down and laughing with joy. The funniest was agogo a NyaBanda, this old thin lady, who began dancing gyrating her small waist vigorously while ululating. I have never forgotten that joyous scene. An hour later, the newlyweds, my uncle and aunt, who had just been married, left on bicycles for their new home where they would be teachers at a primary school.

In our Zambian and Tumbuka tradition, people are known by so many names. In my whole family, we called her amama a NyaZgobvu. Some called her amama. Some called her Mrs. J. J. Mayovu; others called her Rosemary. Aunt is actually a Western term we all use but does not really reflect our traditional kinship terms that always create and reflect a deeper bond.

Amama a NyaZghovu was one of the kindest and most generous warm-hearted people that I have ever known in my whole life. Her home was legendary and a center or refuge for children, men and women, for the hungry, the travelers, the poor, the young, the destitute, wedding celebrants, soccer enthusiasts, students from University of Zambia, friends and especially relatives from the many clans that often converged at her house; Tembos, Bandas, Nyonis, Mayovus, Zghovus, and many others who were relatives of relatives. I grew up in her household and under her wings.

December 2012

One time years ago in 2011, I was at my church service here in America at Porters House Worship when I was in tears. I told my Pastor that I know this woman who raised me and was my second mother. How could I repay her for her caring for me and for her great kindness toward to me? I will never have any money to do something worthy of all her kindness. The Pastor said to just treat her with love and just to pray for her. Pastor Garber prayed with me for her. Amama aNyaZghovu was a saint. She never said an unkind word about anybody in anger. She was always generous in spite the so many tragedies she herself faced in her life on this earth. She could easily have been a bitter person. I am not sure God creates too many people like her.

This is a poem I wrote about her in 1997:

 Human  Angel

An elderly woman

Wakes up at dawn

To feed the chickens

Wakes up the children

In readiness for school

Showers in readiness

For work

On the electric stove

She boils rich tea

Fries egg omelets

The sweet aroma

Drifts under bedroom doors

Pleasantly waking up

Sleepers in their early

Morning reverie

July 1996

Raised many children

Deep sorrow of losing some

Always warm-hearted

Displaying sharp comedic irony

She has done this

For sixty-one years

She is my mother

She is a human angel

Never once denied

Anyone food or water

Never said ill of anyone

She has done this

For six-six years

She is my aunt

My second mother

She is a human angel