Nkompon' Life

NKOMPON’ LIFE: The Village

Nkomponi means “compound.” It also sounds like “nkampani,” which means company. People who work at the factory (or at “The Company,” as people call it) live in the compound. The whole place is called “Cement” or “Cement Siding,” because The Company makes cement.

When The Company was opened in 1913, (black) workers lived about 2 kilometers south-west of the factory. They lived in mud hut complexes – homesteads, some of which survive to this day. Several decades later, The Company began to build more modern residences for its workers. Since this was the colonial period, there was an area reserved for blacks (west of the factory) and one for the whites (east of the factory). (Interestingly, that was the layout for the whole city of Bulawayo – blacks lived in the west while whites lived in the east).

The first real compound came about later, perhaps in the 50’s or 60’s. It was a real compound because The Company built the houses for its workers. For black workers, there were initially three types of residential structures. The lowest class structure was a metal hut. Yes, a simple circular hut made entirely of metal, save for little windows. Each hut housed several people at a time and was designed for new workers – mostly immigrants from Malawi and Zambia. The surviving huts I’ve seen were painted green, Cement’s traditional color. The next class up was the one roomed house – made of brick. It was meant for unmarried workers who had been with The Company for a while. Next up was the two-roomed house, for married workers. This one was made of brick too. Lastly, there was the four-roomed house, for larger families.

With time, these houses/structures were phased out too. A new compound was built a kilometer or two south of the factory. While it was being built, the Gulf War was going on in Iraq. A clever local was following the events, and decided to christen the new compound “Baghdad,” which is what we still call it today. However, the official name of the compound has always been Village 3. There is Village 1 and there was Village 2. Village 1 is the low density residential area that was meant for white workers only in the colonial era, and then later for higher-paid company staff. It has about 50 homes, each with its own staff quarters (The staff quarters house “garden boys” and/or “house girls” – basically house servants). Village 2 was really a smaller version of Village 3 (Baghdad), with only 80 or so houses. It was built more than a decade before Village 3 came into existence, and it was then demolished in the early 2000’s. The old compound (with metal huts, one/two-roomed houses) was demolished in the late 1990’s. My dad bulldozed it to the ground. Thus, we only have Village 3 and Village 1 left.

I have never figured out why they are called “villages.” We usually think of villages as rural settlements. It’s particularly puzzling in the case of Village 1. We call Village 1 “eMayadini,” which is a word that is normally used for low density urban areas. Why would anyone would call a low density urban settlement a village? Perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised because these are the same people who made huts out of metal! Village 1, by virtue of being called “eMayadini,” is not really a Nkomponi. Yes, everyone there does work at the factory, and the houses do belong to the company. However, the place is pretty low density and the workers there are relatively higher paid. That is not Nkomponi-like. The Nkomponi is Village 3 – Baghdad.

My family and I moved into Baghdad around 1991. That is where I grew up, raised by Village 3. After all, it takes a village to raise a child. And what a childhood you get!

Stay tuned.

Baghdad (Village 3) homes

Baghdad (Village 3) homes

Baghdad (Village 3) houses

Baghdad (Village 3) houses

eMayadini, Village 3

eMayadini, Village 1


15 thoughts on “NKOMPON’ LIFE: The Village

  1. Thanks for taking me down memory lane. I’m eagerly looking forward to your next article. More photos please, I like, I like……..


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