Informant: Xhidawa Shawa
Age: 75 years old
topio: Her own Biography
I was born in 1808 by a Bura father -.Sawa and a Pabi
woman Ifapindar. Ny birth village was at Kukurupu.
My father had six wives, but they died and only three
including my mother were left at my time. They died of
I am the last born of my father's compound. In ay
mother's hhili we were five in number being the youngest, I
can't recollect what happened in my earlier days of age to
three about the compound for example we were more than five
but most died when I wasn't even born and it wasn't usual for
Bura children to ask about dead relatives, maybe because it
brings sad memories and it is rude. Children were regarded as
wealth and food and personality. Altogether, the ones I knew
and rememBer, we were eight children in the compound, three
half-brothers and five real brothers.
In my mother's bhilij we were two girls, the first born
and me the last b=x born. We the girls slept in my mother's
room and the boys slept in a boy's room known as charm.
The boys follow their father farming and discussion or
advises but we the girls were with my mother.
Ny father has been sick even before my birth and he died
when I was eight years old. I have never seen him with a
hoe or doing anything tough for sick persons. Someone poisoned
him with leprosy, not because of a quarrel but Just wickedness
by jealous people he tae regarded as the most handsome and
wealthiest in that area* This was the time of slavery and he
had two bought them. He went to witchdoctors and many treat-
ments were undertaken but to no avail.
Yt mother died when I was very young also about eleven
years; old. She was killed by witches, they bit all over her
body spiritually and the wounds were seen physically. She was
sick for four months under treatment by witch doctors before
It was when my father died that my compound scattered and
that my mother went to ea, live with her half-brother. By
then, my eldest sister had died even before my father died -
she died of sickness and I wasn't of age to know what sickness.
My other brother was then married ad he too along two real
brothers and a half-brother. I stayed with my mother. It was
one of her half-brother's wife that had the witch and bit my
mother because of wickedness witches are naturally wicked.
When this happened, mp brother NJakau the married one asked
my mother to come and live with him so that she would be looked
after. It was after she died that it was found out by witch-
doctors about the witches also, when that witchwoman died,
her body swoll up, which was usual' for witches to mtural
What really caused my father's death was the burning of
his house by some people. One of my relatives went and
married off someone's wife. He brought this woman to hide her
inOr house and the husband's people followed them and set fire
to our house. They just came in the night while we were sleep-
ing and set fire. I was carried out on the back of my mother.
My father, a sick man was carried out on the back of his son.
Everything was burnt. No light to see things there was a great
confusion. While my father was being carried out, he cried fca
his burial clothes an old man consider his burial clothes as
precious property, and they spend their old age making cotton
threads and weaving kuntu for making Bul and Tenki. Still that
night, my brothers followed these men and shot at them with
tam bowa. But none was killed.
I was born in the normal way and I was breast fed just
like the others. But when I was about a year old, I became
sick and was taken to a witchdoctor and herberlist (they are
the same in this area) with doctor, My mother suffered alot
because the sickness I don't know what kind was tough and
it caused a lot of alarm to her. The witch doctor had a look
at ha3 me with spiritual eyes, their eyes could see hidden
wickedness and evil and then he gave re the correct medicine.
I was better and that was all. I went through my first just
like any other bura child. My name was chosen by the Kwatika
method a stone is kept and many names are called, if the one
the child likes is called, the stone moves or it shows by some
sort of movement. The name I chose was amba. I had another
name as a play name which is Khidawa. The name Amba is the
name of a relative and her play name is also Xhidawa. The
names that were called at the Kwatika are names of relatives,
because it was believed that new children born were the dead
old relatives. There is prove today because my brother Avema
who died years ago is born today again at Pellachirrama by my
relative there. We know it is him in that at Ewatika naming
ceremony, the Kwatika caretaker would say to the child that if
you are so, so, and so, accept this name and be healthy. Mny
names would be called and he did answer for the name Avema.
From the age of one, I was sick on wards. All was due to
witches, they caught my spirit and placed it in a baobab inter-
twisted with a termarine tree growing together. I became
very sick and no one believed X would live again. I was taken
to many witchdoctos, later they found a very good Hwana witch-
doctor who found out about the witch. He then told them to
buy a big reddish brown goat Sokoto male type this was to
be used to exchange my spirit for the goats. I was placed on
the goats back and after many recitations by the witchdoctor,'
the goat died and I was well again. That is, the goat's
spirit was taken by the witceis and mine came back. Mine was
brought back by taking a big white calabash with pelma inside
and that was how I was saved.
I stayed with my mother first in my father's house until
his death. All this time I just stay at home with other small
children and ay father was always at home. My other brothers
go herding our goats we had lots of goats, about one hundred
and also one hundred sheep. We had no cattle. They used to
keep watch still near the house. I never went herding in my
life. I didn't because I had brothers to do that. Only
parents who had no sons that allow their girls to go. But one
day, my brothers were chased by some boys and I took them back
to the boys I was the youngest but strongest and hot tempered
than my brothers. I went with them and we succeeded in beating
the other boys. I did not work or help in the house and I never
worked for my mother because I was liked and spoilt a bit, I
started going to the river at the age of about nine when we
were in my uncle's house. His daughter was wicked to me and
she forced me always to go to the river. We carry water from
a pond and this we use calabashes. There were no metal pans -
only calabashes and hahi clay dishes. There was no fighting
among my mother and her friends, and in my case, I was hot
tempered but I don't look for trouble, only when troubled.
We used to play on moonlight with many friends. We stay
in groups and sing love songs, jest songs and also we make
plays form a semi circle and then a girl goes in the middle,
falls back and we catch her and push her up, the next on the
edge of the semi circle takes her place while she goes to the
other edge. Or we play with the boys. Boys and girls make
opposite lines, boys separate and girls separate. A boy would
come and choose a girl he admires and carry her to the boya
line, the girl then choose the boy she admires and comes back.
The boys may stay alone and have wrestling.
I then lived in my brother's house after my mother became
sick. All this time she had her farm. She diedafter just
four months when we came to live with my brother NIakaw. He
had three wives and he had many children but most died of
sickness. He has a daughter and I grew up with this girl
ikwarbal. I was/sort of senior sister to her because our age
difference wasn't much. I then started going to my step-
mother's farm my brother's wife she brought me up.
I was once e re aught by witches who tied my spirit on a
tamierine tree. There was a man named Joro Nyel who is known
as a male witch. He could see what other witcheswere doing
but he is a good witch.
He and my brother were going on a journey and then passed
near the tamerine tree where Joro saw. y spirit I in person
was very sick at home he took out his knife and out off the
rope. The knife is visible but not the rope and my spirit, I
was well after that.
ty first husband was Hedima. He is a Bura man living at
Garu. He asked my brother and stetpother his wife about
me first. I wasn't of age when he asked my brother for me to
be his wife, I did not know of it. When I was about ten years
was when Hediaa brought beer for me and him to drink this is
part of marriage arrangements. I refused and my mother said I
must, but Njakaw said if I did not want Hedima, it is alright
and I should not be forced. Hedima then went away, He came
back when I did not know and my mother accepted the beer and
Jabbi, making me his wife, When I was, about seventeen, I was
married off without my interest, I ran and made things as
iUfftr difficult as I could, but to no avail because many
people performed the ceremony and I was forced to go through it.
After the marriage was ~aried off Hediaa by Joro Myel -
he did that with medicine I- I ked him because of the medicine,
that is due to the effect. Aetlually I don't want him, he was
much older. Also I did not like Redima for no reasons.
Hedima, being a Nahelia man, his people went afterme eand
brought me back to him. Between me and Joro Yyel, there was
no ceremony, The Nahelia people went to Joro Gwala who was
a Divisional Officer and also Yerimia Dlzanar the Birma,
That is a court wasi held and I was brought back to Hedima.
We stayed at Garu and after this trouble with Joro
Hedima took me to Hwana land where I gave bjrth to twins.
They lived fcr eight months and then went back to the
spiritual world. Hedima had no relatives, but he just
wanted to be far from Joro Myel.
The twins had a sort of sickness and were always cough-
ing.whwdarex2e Their epiglottis was out off, but they
When they died they died not the same day, the first
died in Hwana land and I was told to run away with the second
one. I went to Pella Tablang xrar where my brother NHakaw was
then living and the other died after two days.
I then went back to Heana and stayed with Hedima. I was
Ships only wife even though he had asked many pran parents fcr
their daughters who were not of age.
He thought it better we left Hwana because of the death
of the twins. We came to Garu again and I gave bir th to a
son Bitrus. Bitrus was only about four months old when Hediaa
died. He had a terrible stomach ache for seven months. Witch
doctors tried but to no avail and he died with Bitrus only
four months old not even yet named. He vas buried by his
iehelia relatives in Garkida. I then want back to Njakaw at
1Ey son Bitrus got s&ck at about eight months and I and
INakaw took him to a witchdoctor. The witchdoctor took him
and looked at him with gspritial eyes. He then asked my
brother NJakaw that, why has iis ason come to trouble me the
mother, when be Sitrus has got wives, children, cattle and
houses in his spiritual world these sort of children are
single twins and are regarded dangerous in Bura land, they
cause a lot of suffering to them and they die very easily.
The witchdoctor then told us to go and perform twin
rituals for Bitrus. He was then named Bitrues He came to my
womb because he saw I would look after him and become sad and
cry sweetly over him if he dies. I stayed for three years
with my brother Njakaw. I stayed in my step-mother hhili and
I had no farm of my own, because Hedima did not stay with me
long enough for me to have a farm.
Before Hedima died, he called me and said, "'1 half-
brother Suwang is the one who would marry you if I die, but I
dontt like it because he is a hot tempered man and you won't
enjoy living with him because you grew up in your brother's
house where you knew only freedom and happiness, but this
Suwang is tough and rough with people, he won'g allow you to
be married off to another person because right now he has
married the widows of his two brothers. I would prefer you
marry anyone you itke and Swtang collects the dowry." He told
me all this alone but not to Suwang. When Hedima then died,
and I was living with NJakaw, Suwang always come for me but I
did not like him, also my brother did not like it. Other
/ shelia people wanted to marry me but were much afraid of
Iuwang and could not come. Moreover he had the right over me
because he was the oldest and it was traditional for Bora
/ widows to marry her husband' s relatives.
While still at INakaw' house, I caught small pox and I
was affected by a cobra. I was taugra thought dead because of
these two dangerous things at a time. Moreover I had this
baby still small a year old. Ehis baby Bitrus was very
peculiar. He never crawled, From sitting he just started
walking straight up, While Iwas sick with this smallpox, he
wasn't breastfeeding and was forced to drink solid food since
I couldn't feed him on milk, I wasn't taken to the hospital
but was treated at home.
After some suffering and struggling Suwang succeed i~
taking me into his compound as his wife. I wasn't forced or
caught, his relatives just came and I was taken along. I
went with my son Bitrus.
I was kept. with one of the wives for some months and then
my own hhili was made for me. Usually a wife farms with her
husband for about two years before she is given hers. The
wife has a grannery and the husband puts guineaeorn in it for
her. But when she starts her farm, she fills her grannery
The women, even though they have their farms, their
guinea corn usually finish before the end of the year. The
husband then gives them two basket full each and so does; he
continue until they get another new harvest.
At first, I and the other women were friendly. But
later things started going bad. Suwang was a man of his own.
His orders were final and he shouts over the smallest mistakes
any oneA does. People were afraid of his temper. He beats us
and also the children.
I was beaten o#oe because I went to visit my brother
Njakaw, He said I had stayed too long there and that was
what annoyed him.
We the women usually quarrel if our children quarrel -
that is we back our children. Usually staying among many
women is trouibsome.
I gave birth to four single twins after Bitrus. That is
I gave birth to a boy and he lives for only a year then dies,
he comes back again and I give birth to him, he lives for a
year and then dies. This happened for two male and A.girl
came, she went away after a year, she came back again, died
away and then eame back, The daughter I have today Thiama.
I performed all twin rituals for her and witchdoctors
have treated her so she can't go back, only natural death.
When these twins single twins were dead, nothing
special was done to their bodies, they were just buried.
People did not think me evil, but they only pitied me saying
myself generation carrier -someone to remind people of me -
are all dieing.
I wanted to divorce Suwang so as to harry another husband -
maybe my children with the new husband would survive, change of
luck; but he refused.
After my daughter 1hlawa -she too is a single twin and
she did not crawl but just started walking upright immediately -
I had other single twins and they all died. There is nothing
peculiar or different about me the mother. It is just that
they went to suffer me.
I continued living with Suwang and I had my baby boy
Bitrus and daughter Thiama with me. When the missionaries
came, I wanted Bitrus to join school, but Suwang wont allow
his children to go to school, he preferred them to farm, and
moreover people at that time thought school was not beneficial.
When I was to give birth to Thlama, I had to go to my
brother's house NJakaw at ukurupu to have luck, maybe
Suwang house was causing the death of my children. After
Thlama was born, I stayed there for about three years.
During my stay there, it was the time Bitrus should have went
herding for Suwang, but he was with me at Kukurupu and so he
has never looked after goats. While at Njakaw's house he did
not herd goats.
When I came back from ukurupu after the birth of Thlama,
my son Bitrus farmed for me for only a year. But when Swang
noticed that Bitrus was a good worker and my farm did well
because of his method of farming, Suwang refused to let him
farm for me, instead he took It rus to his own farm.
I continued farming until when my son Bitrus got married
to his first wife. He did not stay long with her because she
wasn't well mannered. He next married another wife, they did
not have any children. He left that wife and married another
with whom he had three children. He became a hospital worker.
Thlama also got married and had eight children.
Suang usually encourage his children to narry at an
early age so as to be sure they have children in case death
comes such was the advantage for Bitrus who died not long
after he had only three children.
Among Swangs wife I used to be friendly with Maohebri -
we were married to sanaa a year only between us, and moreover
we were friends even before we got married to Suwang.
Bitrus being a single twin, died quite early. He used to
answer to calls from spirit people when we are going to farm,
he used to turn back and answer to some unheard call. He
usually comes to me and says some people are calling him. It
is believed that it is these spirits that took him away. When
he died, I was completely broken down and from then on, I have
had no desire to live. I have always begged God to take me
away so that I can go and see my son again.
I always keep some food on my pile of wood for his spirit
to come and eat. That is Mambilafood. He doesn't eat the
physical food, but that is why food gets spoilt after it has
been kept out over night.
It wasn't long after this when Suwang had sickness and
died. He had sores on his thighs and being old, he died.
We the women did not get any share of his property. They
were all given to his relatives, His children were given a
When he died, we the women had to scatter, but me I said
I wouldn't leave that house* Suwang was the one who told me
in a vision "after he had died that I should not leave that
place. But his relatives did not allow me to do so. I then
went to live with my daughter Thlama. I continued my own farm.
Before the death of 3uwang BMtrus' son Ryeladi caught
elipses and it was so terrible, He was then living with me.
His mother was married to a man at Ibadan. She went with the
rest of Bitrus' children while his eldest son Tami was living
with Bark& a patrineal relative at Joe.
Eyeladi's mother came back from Ibadan because of his
sickness and we took him to a witchdoctor at Pella Tabland.
He was then treated, but that increased the sickness, and then
Suwang allowed us to go to hospital, He was then saved. He
was attending treatment for about ten years before it left him
completely. His hospital fee was free because his father was
a worker in the hospital and he died there, so all his children
should have free treatment.
Immediately Suwaeg died, Terima Tapohi wanted to take me
as a wife. I did not like it. I was forced to marry bim.i I
then lived with him for about three years. I continued with my
own farms that were given to me by Suwang, Terima Tapehi did
not give me any farm. I did not ask him and I wasn't interested
in the marriage, I did not sleep with him and moreover I was
old. I just stayed in the compound. When it is my turn to
cook, I cook and when it is not, I make a small support for
me and Hyeladi. Daring 'my second year of marriage to yerima
Tapoi, Barka who was- at Jos died. Tami was brought back
together with Barkate family' to Terima Tapehi's house,. They
came to his house because he is, the head of that Nyarbwa at
this time and it is usual:, for the head of Hyarbwa to deal 'mth
the cases of his dead Nyarbwa people. That wasted another
shadow on my life because I liked Barka as my son,
I continued asing Yerima to allow me go and stay on my
own. He did not allow me. I didn't like him but he wouldn't
allow me stay alone. I had wanted to live still.near his but
out of his house. I wanted to go alone, not to marry but
just to stay alone. Also I had goats and he did not allow me
to keep them in the house. We had hot O0 trouble of that and
that made me even more impatient. In the end I left his
house and went to live with my brother Njakaw.
Terima Tapohi did not come after me. He did not say any
thing about the dowry payed on me by Nziwi people.
Njakaw gave me farm and I also continued with my own
farm which Swang gave m .
There was no school at Kukurupu, for Hyeladi to continue
and no M-iwi person was willing to help. Hamidu a patrineal
relative did offer to receive him but his brother says no.
His explanation was that I had suffered too much on Hyeladi
and it wouldn't be good for them to take him away from me.
His aunty Th2a got annoyed and then received him. I
stayed for 1 years at NBakaw's house. He then advised me
that it is not good for me to stay at aukurupu while my grand-
children are in Garkida. It would do them good if they come
occasionally to see me or even drink water from me. That is,
they would have someone to look on since their parents are
not in Garkida Bitrus d6ed and their mother at Ibadan.
I then came and lived with Bubwe Twali a Nziwi man who
helped me build a small house of my own.
I have my farms and I still have Hyeladi with me. But
my house rooftop is always blown away by the wind and atimes
the whole buildAng breaks down. I do get help from my
daughters husband. Bat today, even though I an still strong
and healthy, I am broken woman at heart and I usually get ill-
ness. But I am looking forward to the achievements of my
grandhildren and also to the day I would die so that I would
go and see my sog again.
N. Msheia ,23
I was a pagan and my people used to worship haptu. But
now I am a hristian asnd have joined the women's committee or
women's gatherings held on Thursdays in the church. They
usually preach for us when we go to the meetings and we
discuss our women's social problems,