Village peace

Gabane scene0001

Diana Newton
Village peace, 1982
(16.1 x 12.2 inches)
(41 x 31 cm)

Those never-forgotten years in Gabane were very peaceful. With no electricity in my home (or in any of the neighbouring homesteads pictured in this watercolor), life took on a gentle rythm, to the beat of the sun by day, and by night, to the strumming of the cicadas against the beauty of the still unfamiliar stars in the Southern Hemisphere. Life, naturally, wasn't perfect. Why pretend? A couple of thefts upset me deeply at first. Did the culprits really have to take all my photo albums (with so many irreplaceable Polaroid snaps)? But nobody got hurt; that's what mattered and I knew that I looked comparataively wealthy. Another incident     stands out: a neighbor accused my cat of eating his hen's chicks. I countered that his chicks came through my fence and ate my (sweet Siamese) cat's food. He didn't think that was funny at all and threatened to have me summoned to the village kgotla (open-air traditional court where sentencing could, and still can, include lashes administered on the offender's bare back). Nothing happened. Maybe my landlady intervened on my behalf? She was one of the wisest women I have ever met. "Yes, you may," she said when I requested her permission to lay a cement floor (easier to clean and more termite resistant than the existing mud floor) in each of the two huts, and to install several windows. I found the windows a tremendous improvement, bringing air and light into the pleasant but dark, thatch-roofed interior. She, on the other hand, was politely convinced I had wasted my money. "First, you made a hole in the walls to bring in light. Then you put up curtains to shut out the light. What for?" A good lesson in comparative viewpoints!