Resource 4: Songs and stories about processes

Teacher resource for planning or adapting to use with pupils

Here is a traditional Hausa song (with English translation) describing various processes through which grain goes before it is eaten. It was included in a booklet on ‘Processes and processing’. Such songs could be included in a recipe book. Stories follow which come from the same source, and could also be included in such a recipe or process book.

Noma alkama, Noma alkama

Noma alkama Noma alkama, Noma alkama,

[We plough the wheat]

Muna girbin alkama, Muna girbin alkama

Muna girbin alkama, Muna girbin alkama, Muna girbin alkama,

[We harvest the wheat]

Muna dafa alkama, Muna dafa alkama,

Muna dafa alkama Muna dafa alkama, Muna dafa alkama,

[We cook the wheat]

Muna chin alkama, Muna chin alkama,

Muna chin alkama, Muna chin alkama, Muna chin alkama,

[We eat the wheat]

Muna koshi, Muna koshi,

Muna koshi, Muna koshi, Muna koshi,

[Our stomachs are full of wheat]

The discovery of millet

Once upon a time there was a man with two wives. (In some parts of Africa, they say, ‘One wife – one trouble. Twelve wives – twelve troubles!’) The older wife could not have children, and so when she discovered that the younger wife was pregnant, she was very jealous. But there was nothing she could do.

The husband and his younger wife grew closer and closer. And this made the older wife even more jealous. So she decided to wait until after the birth.

But when the baby was born, it was a boy. The elder wife, according to custom, was supposed to take care of the baby and the amariya (younger wife) for a few months. The elder wife decided to go to the forest to look for something that she could cook for the younger wife that would poison her. She hoped that the younger wife would die, and then she would be able to bring up the baby as her own.

In the forest, the older wife found a plant that had some heads of corn growing on it. She had never seen anything quite like it before. She said, ‘This will make her sleep, a really deep sleep, so that she doesn’t wake up the next day. Then I can prepare a wonderful funeral.’

She cooked the millet and fed the amariya. To her surprise, the amariya didn’t fall into a deep sleep or die. Instead, she grew fat and looked healthier and lovelier by the day. The baby, too, thrived.

When the older wife saw the effects of the stuff she had been cooking and feeding to the younger wife, the older wife decided to taste it for herself. She liked the taste, and continued to cook and eat this new stuff. She also began to grow fatter and healthier.

Well, the husband couldn’t help noticing that his two wives looked so well, and the baby was so healthy. He wanted to taste whatever it was that they were eating. So they all became fat and healthy.

And, of course, in a village, word gets around very, very quickly. Before long, the rest of the villagers wanted to know what this family were eating. And so it was that millet was discovered.

The discovery of butter

There was once a young couple with a large herd of cattle and a large flock of sheep. The husband fed his family by milking the cows. In those days they stored the milk in calabashes.

The couple sometimes quarrelled and she could be seen running off to her mother, with her husband running after her, shouting and shaking his fist in the air.

One day when they quarrelled, the husband happened to be holding one of the calabashes of thick, creamy milk. When his wife ran off, the husband ran after her, as usual. But this time he forgot to put down the calabash of thick, creamy milk. As he ran shouting after his bride, he shook his fist holding the calabash in the air. The calabash of milk shook. And the thick, creamy milk inside shook. In fact, the husband ran so fast that the calabash of milk was shaken really hard.

When he couldn’t catch her, and he was out of breath, the man sat down. He was hot and thirsty after running after his wife and shouting. So he put the calabash to his lips to take a drink of the thick creamy milk. But it wasn’t milk that poured from the calabash. It was something much more like water! This was all his wife’s fault!

The man was puzzled. He sat down and looked inside the calabash. What had happened to the thick, creamy milk? How could it have turned into something watery? He took another mouthful. It was just the same. He put his hand inside the calabash and discovered that there was a lump of something. I’m sure you can guess what he found. Yes, that’s right, it was a lump of smooth, greasy butter. When the husband licked his fingers, he found that the lump of stuff tasted rather nice. It was like fat.

He rushed back to his place, found some maize bread, and smeared some of the fat from the calabash onto the lump of bread. The bread tasted much better than usual. His anger vanished. When his wife returned after a little while, he showed her what had happened, and gave her some of the fat to taste on bread.

For some time after that, whenever the butter was finished, the husband would start a quarrel with his wife so that he could take a calabash of thick, creamy milk with him as he ran after her. He knew that way the thick creamy milk would produce some butter.

One day when there was very little butter left, the wife took a calabash of thick creamy milk and shook it as hard as she could. She shook it, and shook it, and shook it. When she could shake it no more, she put the calabash down. You can guess what she found when she looked inside, can’t you? She found some butter, and some watery whey.

That evening when her husband came home, the young bride turned to her husband and said, ‘Perhaps if we just shake the calabash full of thick creamy milk really hard, it will make some more butter. Then we won’t have to quarrel any more.’

And so it was that they lived very happily, and became wealthy from bartering some of the thick, creamy milk of their cattle, and the butter, which they had learned to make.

Adapted from: Ngtetu, C. & Lehlakane, N., Inqolowa, The Discovery of Amazimba and The Discovery of Butter, Umthamo 3, University of Fort Hare Distance Education Project

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