By Michelle Bulterys
This past summer I was fortunate enough to conduct medical-anthropological research in the HaMakuya Village in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. During my stay, I spent the majority of my time playing soccer and learning the traditional dance from the wonderful children of the community. The following photos depict a few faces of the many children that had such an incredible impact on my life. They are captioned by quotes which were said in Venda (the local language) at the time the pictures were taken.
The child in the picture is named Mpo, which means “Gift” in TshiVenda. He is six years old and dreams of being a professional photographer. Mpo is also the name I was given by my host mother upon arriving in HaMakuya Village. I earned the name by chasing a chicken and serving it to the family for dinner.
“I dani (Follow me)”
Her name is Blessing, and she is only two years old. She is the sassiest girl I have ever met. She became very bored as her father, my host father, gave me a tour of his traditional healing garden. The garden had a myriad of flowers, barks, roots and leaves that each had a healing purpose (for example, chewing Tenu bark has the ability to make you become irresistible to your spouse). Blessing tugged on my shirt repeating, “i dani,” meaning, “follow me”. She guided me to a dead wild cat, which had been trapped overnight. Her father explained that he uses the jaw to hang as a necklace on his children when they sleep to prevent them from grinding their teeth.
“Ndi A Awela (Sit down)”
Whatever Blessing wanted, she got. The five of us children had stepped just 20 feet out of our home on the way to the watering hole before Blessing pulled an empty tin from the wheel-barrow and instructed all of us to sit. She always hated the four-mile trek to retrieve water every day. I quickly learned that she loved the trek if she got to sit in the wheel-barrow while I pushed her and made car sounds. I grew very strong arm muscles.
“Zwino (This moment)”
I looked into Tati’s eyes and asked her, “When are you really happy?” Her response was “zwino,” meaning “this moment,” or “right now”. I took a picture for us both to remember the moment, and developed it for her when I went into town one day. I was one of the few foreigners to have ever come to the village. I helped her with her schoolwork at night, and in exchange she taught me how to skin mpani worms and make fire with sticks.
“Ndi Ani Funa (I love you)”
This photo of Thanyani (age 7) and Zembe (age 8) was taken just after our soccer team won a game on my last day in the village. They had become my brothers, and on that day would always say “Ndi ani funa” to me, which I later found out meant, “I love you”. The soccer field in HaMakuya Village was slanted and had three trees in the middle, and was where we spent the majority of our days.