In Zimbabwe, I am referred to as a ‘Nyasarand,’ the same way somebody may be referred to as ‘Chinese’ somewhere. Many of us ‘Nyasarands’ find this term derogatory, but some have grown to accept it. The term comes from the word ‘Nyasaland,’ which is what the country Malawi was called at some point during its colonial period. During this period (particularly in the 1940’s and 1950’s), many workers immigrated into Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) from Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). The workers from Malawi, and their descendants, came to be known as the Nyasarands. We, the Nyasarands, are
stereotyped quite a lot, and here I’ll tell you about the most common of these stereotypes.
The thing that we Nyasarands have a reputation for, is our alleged expertise in the art of dark magic. Basically, I mean witchcraft. We are known to have great knowledge in the practice of ‘traditional’ medicine, but this knowledge is usually associated with dark magic – witchcraft. What do I mean by dark magic? Well, I am talking about things such as a person sending a lightning bolt to strike another person – usually an enemy. Or another person inflicting a mysterious illness on another person living tens of miles away. Or yet another person flying to and from another country in one night – on a reed basket. That is what I mean by dark magic. And those are the things that we are known for.
Of course, our parents and grandparents usually deny doing these things. They will also deny the ‘fact’ that we are the sole masters of the trade. However, the stories that they tell us do not do us much good in terms of dismissing the allegations that we are experts of dark magic. These stories are incredible, and I don’t usually hear non-Nyasarand people tell them. I will share just three of them. You may believe them or not, and it’s up to you to judge whether or not we have earned our reputation as Nyasarands – the masters of the dark arts.
Apparently, I have a grandfather who was (is?) known as Chigodo. I have been told quite a bit about his ‘powers,’ and here’s one story that proves it. On this one day, Chigodo crossed paths with a mad bull. It charged at him, but he didn’t run, like I would. Instead, he waited for it, and grabbed it by the horns as it lowered its head to attack. He struggled with it for a moment, still holding it by the horns. Then, he punched it squarely in the face. The beast dropped cold. Yes, my grandfather (my dad’s uncle) held a mad bull by the horns and knocked it cold with one punch. Believe it or not.
Another grandfather of mine, this one by the name of January, did a similar thing – though in a more urban setting. I don’t know how it got to this, but at one point he lifted the back of a police truck, preventing it from moving. The back wheels just turned and turned while January held the back of the car in the air. He was that strong. So if you’re ever missing a hydraulic jack, just give dear old January a call.
Lastly, here’s an epic story about a man that I am not related to at all. This fellow boarded a bus, after which the bus just wouldn’t move. This happened in Malawi. After a few more attempts to get the bus to move, the driver gave up. Then some ‘powerful’ man made an announcement: “if you know that you have some things that are causing this bus not to move, please remove them from the bus.” Now listen to me, non-Nyasarand reader. He wasn’t talking about heavy things. No. He was talking about black magic items that were too ‘heavy’ for the bus. Eventually, our fellow got off the bus, and lo, he proceeded to empty his pockets. It turned out he was carrying cows in his pocket. Yes, he was carrying cows in his pockets, and they were too heavy for the bus. And yes, when he got off the bus, the bus got its motion back. There wasn’t any mechanical fault at all. The fault was with a Nyasarand.
As you can see, our elders tell us stories that are quite unbelievable. Of course, the stories aren’t false. But woe to the person who calls us dark-magic-loving Nyasarands. I dare you to call me a witch. I double-dare you. I am a Nyasarand.