There’s been a lot of this lately, in various different forms. Asinavalo. Abanavalo. Uvalo. For those of you needing clarification, here’s a short dissertation on the word.

Firstly, it comes from a verb – uku-vala. The verb means the following things:

  1. close or shut
  2. suppress or deceive; bribe; bluff; cheat
  3. protect against evil or use protective charms

So we’re already off to a good start – the example sentence for meaning 2 is “umntwana bamvale ngemali angakhulumi” (“they bribed the child/prince with money to say nothing”).

The noun itself means the following:

  1. the cartilage at the lower end of the breast-bone or sternum; the pit of the stomach
  2. chronic palpitation of the heart
  3. anxiety, fear or nervous apprehension; remorse; pricks of conscience or feeling of guilt.

Which adds a whole other layer of meaning. Uvalo is a complex fluid, meaning that it is constantly shifting and roiling inside a person in ways that are not immediately apparent to the naked eye. It doesn’t just mean the abstract English concept of ‘fear’ – it is a localised physical experience, encompassing a range of emotions. One feels uvalo in the pit of the stomach, a feeling of conscience and remorse, guilt and apprehension.

Basically uvalo is “Oh my god, what have we done?” accompanied by palpitations of the heart and a rising feeling of nauseous anxiety.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – there is a lovely proverb about uvalo:

Kusinda abakwaluvadlwana, kufe abakusibinjana

The ones from Little-Fear’s kraal escape, while those from Little-Courage’s place die.

He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day.

And one more thing – tomorrow is usuku lomvalo (a day of the cross-bar, closing off work – a public holiday). Enjoy.