Khulisa’s history with Baba Credo Mutwa

Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa called himself a sanusi (common spelling isanuse) which is a type of Zulu diviner or sangoma.

He was also an author who drew on African mythology, traditional Zulu folklore, extraterrestrial and personal encounters.

His last work was a graphic novel, Tree of Life Trilogy, based on his most famous book, Indaba my Children. In 2018 he was honoured with a USIBA award presented by the South African Department of Arts and Culture for his work in Indigenous Wisdom.

‘Baba’ Credo Mutwa assisted in the birth of Khulisa in July 1997 through the introduction of a storytelling project targeted at children in conflict with the law, at the Walter Sisulu Place of Safety in Soweto, followed by the piloting of a democratic South Africa’s first official Rehabilitation Programme in Leeuwkop Prison, north of Johannesburg, in October of that year.

On 25 March 2020 ‘Baba’ Credo Mutwa passed away but his legacy lives on.

Many of Credo Mutwa’s African fables remain unpublished and it gives Khulisa great delight to share with our friends and communities, on a monthly basis, additional African stories recorded during the travels of Lesley Ann van Selm and Baba Mutwa.

<story 1>

HOW KONDE TORE THE SKIN OFF HIS BUTTOCKS

 

Once upon a time the king of all the dassies, Imbila the All-Powerful, stood up at a gathering of his subjects and laid down a new law.  He told the dassies (or hyraxes) that henceforth they were going to behave like human beings.  They were to plough the land and plant crops. 

 

“We must banish hunger from the lives of our children,” said the King of the Dassies.  “I say that from this day onward you must all take sharp-pointed sticks, hardened in fire, and plough the land and, like human beings, you must plant monkey nuts (groundnuts) and you must plant beans and you must plant mielies (maize).”

 

“We hear you, Great King,” said the dassies, hurrying to obey.

 

Within the space of a few months, the monkey nut fields of the dassies were green, the rain was falling, the corn was growing well and the mielies were flourishing.  There came a time when the dassies started harvesting their crops.  They stored the monkey nuts and the corn as well as the beans in deep granaries underground and they left only a little hole through which fresh air could enter.

 

The dassies were happy.  The dassies became fat.  The dassies became prosperous. 

 

But there was a thief watching their efforts and this thief’s name was Konde, a large baboon who lived in the vicinity.  Konde had watched the dassies ploughing and planting.  He had watched them weeding their crops and had laughed in his grey beard saying, “Hee, hee, hee!  The fools do not know this, but they are working for me, Konde, the Baboon of All Baboons!”

 

When Konde found out where the dassies were keeping their corn, their beans and their monkey nuts, he undertook to steal that food almost every day and his plan was very ingenious.  He used to smear gum onto his tail and dip his tail through the hole, which the dassies had left to ventilate their grain and when he withdrew his tail, monkey nuts, lovely monkey nuts, by the dozen were sticking to his hairy tail.  He ate and he ate and he ate until his stomach was as tight as a drum.  The baboon grew very fat and then one day the dassies discovered that somebody was eating their grain.  They got very angry and they decided to go to a Sangoma, a diviner, who happened to be the guard dog in the local human village.  They consulted this dog that took out his divining bones and threw them on the ground.

 

“Woof, woof, woof!  The bones, the bones, they see who the thief is!  Woof, woof, woof!  The bones, the bones, they see who the thief is!” 

 

“Who is the thief, Oh Great Dog Inja?” asked the King of the Dassies.

 

“It is Baboon!  Baboon is the thief!  Baboon is the thief!  Woof, woof, woof!” said the dog in reply.

 

The dassies were furious.  They gathered other dassies and enlisted the help of other small animals – little antelopes, bush pigs, and porcupines, every one of them and a few meerkats as well.  All of them set out in search of the great baboon. 

 

They found him.  They caught him and they painted him all over with his own gum and they were thinking of pouring bird feathers over him, as well as other rubbish, so that he would become a moving rubbish dump.  They wanted everyone to see what a thief Konde the baboon was, but Konde escaped and ran away with the animals in full cry after him.  He ran and he ran and he ran, but he did not realise that he was running towards a great cliff, a precipice.  The next moment the baboon was falling through empty space. 

 

“Waaaah!  Waaaah! Yaaaah! Oooooooh!” he screamed.

 

And he fell and he fell and he fell and then at the bottom of the precipice he struck something with his backside. 

 

Bah! 

 

And he stuck onto it.  When he opened his eyes he found to his horror that he had fallen onto the back of the great leopard, Ingwe, who had been resting at the bottom of the precipice and now the poor baboon was stuck with his backside to the spotted hide of the leopard.

 

“Is this my father that I see before me?” cried the leopard in great joy?  “A fat baboon!  The very thing that I always eat has fallen out of the sky onto my back!  Listen, Baboon, I am going to take you to my wife and children.  And today, my friend, you are invited to dinner, and you, and no-one else, is on the menu!”

 

So the leopard stood up and started running through the bush.

 

Kata da, kata da, kata da, kata da.

 

The leopard ran, a golden streak through the bush, his green eyes blazing, his teeth bared in sheer joy.  Leopard was running towards his home, carrying Baboon to his doom.

 

The poor baboon, Konde, was frightened out of his wits.  He was stuck to the back of the leopard by the very strong gum and he had to think very fast.  He looked ahead towards where Leopard was heading and there ahead he saw Leopard’s family resting under a tree.  It would only be a few moments before he became dinner and history.  But, halfway between his terrible destination and his present position grew a tree with a branch that jutted at right angles from the trunk and the position of that branch was such that immediately Baboon’s deep-set eyes looked up with hope.

 

The leopard was running towards this tree and would pass directly under it and Baboon waited and he waited.  When the running leopard reached the tree, Konde reached out with all his strength and got a good grip, a two-handed grip, on the jutting branch.  He hung on for dear life, although terrible pain was sweeping through him. 

He was still stuck to the back of the leopard who was running away from the tree while baboon was hanging on to the branch as if all his life depended upon it, which it definitely did!  Something had to give under these circumstances and it did!

 

There was a ripping sound and all the skin on baboon’s buttocks was torn off and remained sticking to the back of the leopard, which continued running towards his wife and children while Konde remained hanging for a few moments from the branch of the tree, a great wave of pain burning in his backside where all the skin had been torn off, leaving his buttocks red and raw and bleeding.

 

A few moments later Baboon let go of the branch and falling to the ground, turned and fled for dear life in the opposite direction to the one in which the leopard was running.  The bush swallowed him up and for many days he was not seen again by the other animals and when he was, it was found that he was sporting a bright red, raw-looking backside and, funnily enough, all the little baboons that he fathered after that, all had red, raw and painful-looking buttocks.

 

To this day baboons have bare, red buttocks — all as a result of the strange adventure of Konde, their ancestor.