ubunsumansumane

Ngenkathi ngaqala ukubhala izincwadi zesiZulu, bengingazi ukuthi uhlobo engilubhalayo lubizwa kanjani ngolukaPhunga noMageba.

Kade ngazi ngezinkondlo nangezindatshana nezindaba (phecelezi amanoveli), kodwa ikakhulukazi lezo zithanda ukubhalwa (ngesiZulu) ngezinto ezenziwa empilweni yasemhlabeni – hhayi ngezinto zomcabango (phecelezi ze-imagination). Okunye ebengazi ngakho yizinganekwane – ngakho indatshana yami yokuqala yaba yalolo hlobo.

Izinganekwane zithanda ukubizwa ngelinye igama – izinsumansumane. USolwazi Mbatha, encwadini yakhe eyisichazimazwi sesiZulu, usho ukuthi insumansumane “yindaba okunenkolo yokuthi yenzeka kudala noma-ke kungekho bufakazi obuqinile balokho” noma “yisehlakalo esingajwayelekile”. Usho futhi ukuthi inganekwane “yindaba exoxwa ngomlomo ngenhloso yokudluliselwa esizukulwaneni ngesizukulwane ixoxelwe ubumnandi nokufundisa noma ingelona iqiniso” noma “ngokungakholeki okungelona iqiniso; imbude”.  

Njengoba uhlobo lwencwadi engithanda ukubhala yilona olubizwa nge”Speculative Fiction” ngesiNgisi, lawa magama ayalufanela – ikakhulukazi ngoba izindaba zami zikhuluma ngezehlakalo ezingajwayelekile nangezinto ezingakholeki noma ezingelona iqiniso. Kodwa yimuphi umehluko phakathi kwe-Fiction ne-Speculative Fiction? I-Fiction yilolo hlobo lwendaba oluthanda ukukhuluma ngezinto ezingelona iqiniso, kodwa ezenziwa emhlabeni esiwujwayele mihla namalanga – ikakhulukazi emhlabeni wesimanje. Kodwa i-Speculative Fiction ikhuluma ngezinto ezingabe zenziwa emhlabeni ohlukile, noma emkhathini (phecelezi ‘in space’), noma esikhathini sekusasa elikude. Umhlaba engibhala ngawo uhluke kakhulu kunalona esiphila kuwo namuhla, njengoba izigameko zenziwa ezikhathini ezizayo (noma ezingeza kithi uma singabhekile).

Ngakho-ke, emva kweminyaka ngibhala ngezinto ezingelona iqiniso, sengikhetha ukukhuluma ngohlobo lwami lokubhala ngegama “ubunsumansumane”. Uma ngifuna ukugcizelela ukuthi yi-Science Fiction, ngithi “ubunsumansumane bekusasa”.

Uthini, mfundi omuhle? Kuyazwakala?  

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2440 vs 2261 / uqhekeko

Some ideas marinate for a long time before reaching the right moment to come forth.

I had written the words down on an envelope, about 9 months ago. That envelope has travelled with me all over, tucked into the depths of whatever bag I was carrying or floating freely in the back of my car.

In the centre of it is an isenzukuthi:

qheke

Though the act of exploring that word-root was born in a moment of fury, of making sense of being broken into (ukuqhekeza) and robbed earlier this year, the envelope has soaked up the various molecules of this zeitgeist in which I find myself immersed.

Qheke has two basic meanings:

  1. ukuvuleka kwento eqinile eyomile

the-act-of-getting-opened of-a-thing that-is-hardened (and) that-is-dry

  1. ukuklayeka

the-act-of-getting-klaya’d (I’ll explain in a moment)

The first meaning has signified various points of this year for me – the sudden splitting apart of so many taken-for-granted things, the lack of coherence and integrity in the world around us, the feeling that we have all been violated in some way by the different types of order we have put in place to govern ourselves – and it has acted like a koan on which I could meditate in moments where I could see the accepted world breaking open before me, revealing its dried-out bones and desiccated innards.

The second meaning relies on understanding ukuklaya:

to cut through lengthwise

to split

to cleave

to cut across the veld where there is no pathway

This is what has been realised in what has happened this evening, as the izinkonjane swoop through cloudless skies and ululation and vuvuzelas mark the end of a chapter in our history. The path that we could have taken has not been taken. A new path is being made as you read, through the long grass that has grown up in the recent rains. It is Zibandlela, after all. Kodwa beware – oxamu bayabusa ekweneni (monitor lizards are happiest in the overgrowth).

2440 vs 2261.

I knew by the sudden sound that is so much a part of this continent – ukukikizela. Ululation. A howl of joy repeated to the sky as we were spared yet another of Msholozi’s dodges.

At the heart of the numbers this evening is the fact that the party was almost evenly split down the middle.

uKhongolose uthi qheke. (the Congress goes “qheke”)

Ukuqhekeka means “ukuvuleka noma ukuhlukana phakathi kwento ebihlangane” (the opening out or separation within an object that used to be joined) as well as “ukuvula kakhulu; ukuba sobala kungafihleki” (being very open; being clear with nothing hidden).

I’m not so sure about the last one, to be honest. That remains to be seen – but I’m cautiously optimistic.

The noun for what has occurred is u(lu)qhekeko, which is

isenzo sokuhlukana phakathi; ukuqembuka; ukuhlubuka

the act of internal differentiation; factionalism; betrayal

That escalated very very quickly indeed.

You see, the splitting over the votes today shows a kind of split in loyalty, a turning against the established order. It is also a point of decision, and Mbatha adds these two lovely descriptions of ukuhlubuka:

ukuguquka emazweni akhe umuntu

alteration in a person’s words

ukulahla abantu obukade uhambisana nabo ekwenzeni kwezinto

the act of dumping those with whom you used to cooperate when doing things

 

And those of you with some sense of the language would have noted that uku-qembuka gives us iqembu, a team or party.

How ironic.

The opposite of all of this is ukubumbana. It is the mutual action required of all the particles shaped into a single clay vessel. If one molecule falters, the vessel cracks. impurities that need to be corrected are removed before firing it in a kiln.

It is my hope that we can find some ubumbano in this moment. And that we shape this new vessel in such a way that it holds true in the kiln. Because there’s nothing worse than a pot that explodes during firing. Collateral damage is severe in those cases.

umbhikisho / protest

I just read that the SABC will no longer show footage of violent protests. I almost have no words. I understand that there might be issues around showing violence in general, but there is also the imperative to report accurately on what is happening in South Africa every day.

It happens in many many parts of the country – so many that on some days the people I work with can’t even get to the schools they’re working in, as a result of roads being blocked and black plumes rising into the air – and it happens every day, and has been happening every day for years.

umbhikisho.

It’s in the simple solid noun class, along with the words for noise (umsindo), fire (umlilo) and spirit (umoya). It is a basic element, and has the same shape every time it is repeated. The plural is imibhikisho. This word and its root-verb do not appear in Doke’s dictionary of 1958 – which is in itself historically interesting. Both do occur in Mbatha (2010), as one would expect:

ukubhikisha (isenzo) [-el-; -is-; -w-] – ukwenza isenzo esikhombisa ukungeneliswa okuthile. Abasebenzi kade bebhikisha befuna ukukhushulelwa amaholo.

ukubhikisha (verb) [applied; causative; passive] – to do a deed which shows dissatisfaction with something. The workers were protesting for a long time, wanting an increase in their pay.

and

umbhikisho (ibizo) – isenzo esikhombisa ukungeneliswa okuthile.

umbhikisho (noun) – a deed which shows dissatisfaction with something.

I think that, if you cast your eyes over those definitions, you will see why this is the word used when talking about protest, at least when speaking directly. It’s frequently paired up with descriptive phrases:

umbhikisho onodlame – a violent protest

umbhikisho wabafundi basenyuvesi – a university students’ protest

umbhikisho wezidingongqangi – a basic-service-delivery protest

It’s also used as a verb-phrase:

abafundi basenyuvesi babhikishela imfundo yamahhala – the university students are protesting for free education

amalungu omphakathi ayabhikisha – the community members are protesting.

But, as I’m sure you’ve realised, isiZulu is rather fond of both euphemism and idiomatic expression. Let’s start hysteron proteron – idiomatic expression. The main one here is ukuvuka umbhejazane – literally “to awaken a tendency to vicious inclination”. Let’s unpack:

ukuvuka: as seen in Treason Season, the word has 5 different non-idiomatic meanings. Briefly: wake up, awake from sleep; be resurrected; get up, rise; blow vigorously like the wind, rage like a storm, get into a rage or temper; attack something continually.

umbhejazane: a tendency to evil, passion, or vicious inclination (compare with ugovana)

The word umbhejazane in the idiom is probably being used adverbially, as ukuvuka is usually intransitive. For the transitive version (wake something up), isiZulu uses ukuvusa. What that means is that the community is the thing doing the ukuvuka, and the character of that action is umbhejazane. In terms of the origin of the word, it seems to come originally from one of my favourite izenzukuthi – bhee (9-9), which is the sound:

of flaring up of fire, of roaring of fire in grass; of raging temper; of the spreading of an epidemic; of the burning sensation of condiments in the mouth.

It is linked to many different nouns and verbs, and one in particular has several nouns in different izigaba which are very like umbhejazane –

isibhekazane: a raging, impetuous activity (as of a raging epidemic of disease or passion), a wild uncontrollable mental impulse to evil. uvuke isibhekazane sokweba = he is overcome with an uncontrollable impulse for stealing.

u(lu)bhekazane: an ungovernable impulse to evil

umbhekazane: an ungovernable impulse to evil.

So, overall, when someone uses the phrase “ukuvuka umbhejazane”, the images of ungovernable fires spreading across SA’s communities is not far off the idiomatic expression.

Which brings us to the euphemism, apropos of the SABC’s decision. You see, there are some ways in which it is impossible NOT to report on protests in South Africa – particularly when it comes to traffic. In the days when I still used to listen to uKhozi FM, I particularly liked the traffic reports (closely followed by the weather, in terms of linguistic interest), as they were full of idiom and euphemism and proverbs. These I will deal with in another post, but for now let’s look at how the SABC’s traffic reports used to refer to protests:

ngaseMbumbulu, kunesimo semfuno lapho – hlab’udlule njengenalidi.

near Mbumbulu, there is a situation of need there – stab and pass through it like a needle.

You see, even though the newsreader didn’t (or was ordered not to) say the word for protest, whether directly or idiomatically, they still managed it – isimo semfuno.

isimo: a form, shape, nature, character, situation.

imfuno: {not in Vilakazi 1958} the seasonal thing which is desired or wanted or looked for or needed.

Which ends up meaning something like “there are people burning tyres (and other, more permanent things), blocking roads, stoning cars and generally behaving in an ungovernable fashion as a result of the fact that what they want is not being given to them”.

And that pretty accurately describes SA’s culture of protest.

So, SABC, rather than adopting the “I’m not going to give these attention-seekers any airplay” approach, perhaps consider that NOT broadcasting the protests is an undemocratic act. That accountability to ALL of South Africa’s citizens, including those who are violently and openly dissatisfied with the government, is a basic principle of a national broadcaster.

You, and the president who has you on a short leash, are deaf to the cries of the citizens who put you in power. And the protests will get louder and louder until you can hear them clearly.

ONA – Taxonomies of Abuse Pt 1

Sad as it is to write about these things, they occur so commonly in SA society (and in the media) that NOT to write about them would be like praising the Emperor’s new clothes.

So. Abuse. The English word is derived from Latin – abutor has two basic meanings:

“to use up any thing, to use to the end, to consume entirely” and then “to misuse, abuse, or take advantage of someone or something”

The basic root of the word is a deponent verb, utor. It’s where English gets words like ‘use’, ‘utility’, ‘utilise’ and others. The overwhelming metaphor underlying the word ‘abuse’ is that you are treating a person like a thing, and you are consuming them utterly in the process.

But what does isiZulu have to say about it?

No matter which word you’re using, if it’s sexual abuse to which you’re referring then you usually include the word ‘ucansi‘ in one form or another. The word ucansi literally means ‘a sleeping mat‘, but it is the most acceptable euphemism for ‘sex‘.

So, let’s start with the most common word: nukubeza. It’s a verb (as these all are), and has the literally meaning of:

1. make dirty, make unclean, soil; 2. slander; 3. half-cook food

It’s related to the ideophone núku, denoting:

1. disorder, dishevelled state, dirtiness, untidiness, slovenliness or ‘a wild, bedecked appearance’

2. lack of adhesion

The related words all relate to the idea that the thing is dishevelled or half-cooked, as someone might be following a rape or other act of sexual abuse. But the connotations of the word are (as these all are) quite disturbing – especially the one of ‘half-cooked food’. As with the Latin word, the idea of consuming is associated with abusing. {by the way, this word is not listed in the latest scholar’s isiZulu dictionary from Oxford}

Another verb for abuse is hlukumeza. It is derived from the ideophone hlúku (denoting shaking) and means:

1. Push, jolt; give a staggering push to someone; shake

2. Give a shock to someone; offend them; irritate or anger them.

The physical violence of an act of sexual abuse or rape is very apparent in this one, although there is still no mention of any physical sexual act. As with most languages, euphemism works hardest around sexual topics.

The most generic word for abuse relates to the verb ona. It is the root of an essential isiZulu concept relating to the physically visible despoliation.

{incidentally, there are very few verb or noun iziqu that begin with vowels, and even fewer that begin with the vowel o-; some of them are quite common, though – such as azi, enza, and a host of verbs with an archaic applied-type prefix like ahlula, elapha and oma]

ONA is from the Ur-Bantu root ‘γona’ denoting the same concept. It has 4 meanings:

1. Spoil, injure, damage, soil

2. Do wrong, sin; commit a crime

3. Seduce, corrupt, ravish; “make a virgin pregnant illegally”

4. Trespass

No example sentences are given for the verb, in Vilakazi and Doke (1958). Mbatha (2007) gives exactly the same defintion, just ngesiZulu. He does, however, add in three example sentences:

1. Abonile kumele bajeziswe – Those who have sinned should be punished

2. Ingozi esayibona ngoLwesine yalona usuku lwethu – The accident which we saw on Thursday ruined our day

3. Uhlawuliselwe ukona intombazane yakwaZunguHe was fined for ilegally impregnating a girl from the Zungu household

This word links to a word so common that even first time students in my classes (who are at that point incapable of greeting someone ngesiZulu) are aware of it – umona.

Umona is so much more than simple avarice, or base greed. It is a concept which encompasses covetousness and desire, but which also implies that ‘umona usuka esweni‘ – ‘jealousy comes from the eye‘ / ‘seeing is wanting‘. Vilakazi and Doke describe it as “jealous displeasure“. What you’re saying when you say ‘jealous down’ ends up meaning ‘I can see where this is ending up and I’ll have no part in it’.

So why isn’t ONA the verb at the heart of the modern isiZulu verb for ‘abuse’? It seems perfectly suited. In 1958 it even had religion to back it up, since isono is ‘a sin‘, as in the ritual words of the Agnus Dei:

Mvana kaNkulunkulu, osusa izono zomhlaba, sihawukele / Mvana kaNkulunkulu, osusa izono zomhlaba, sihawukele / Mvana kaNkulunkulu, osusa izono zomhlaba, siphe ukuthula

But perhaps it was this religious or spiritual connotation that did it in? Perhaps it’s too metaphorical for the current legalisation of isiZulu.

Think about it though – how specific are nukubeza and hlukumeza? Even with the added reference to ‘sex’, do they describe more accurately (but perhaps less forensically?) what happens:

ukunukubeza kocansithe sexual dishevelling/soiling/half-cooking

ukuhlukumeza kocansi the sexual jolting/shaking/shocking

Just writing those two things gives me the chills. The description is so visceral and accurate in its painting of the act of abuse.

If you can stomach more, I still have to lead you into the alleys recently explored by News24 ngesiZulu, and brought to my attention kuTwitha – potoza and cubhacubha.

{end of Pt 1 – Pt 2 on its way once I’ve recovered}