FransjeVanRiel-word
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Book Crow Roosters

Nomfusi takes the reader on a colourful journey back into an Africa of old; a tale that is peppered with culture and traditions, reflecting on a past life that has shaped the woman Nomfusi Yekani has become.

The Crowing of the Roosters was nominated for the 2005 Alan Paton/Sunday Times Book Award.

Reviews

A great read which sometimes makes your blood boil, especially if you’re a woman. Makes you wonder what her choices would have been if she had been born 30 year later. DRUM magazine

If any woman's story can be every woman's story, this may well be it. Robin Malan, author and editor

Takes ones breath away. ELLE magazine

One cannot but be caught up in the story of her life, and deeply touched … I felt greatly enriched, and touched, by reading it. Beverley Roos Muller, Cape Argus

As Nomfusi’s scribe, Fransje van Riel tells the story with honest simplicity – a collaboration that opens up inspiring possibilities. Adele Hamilton, Fair Lady Magazine

A gripping short history of tribal and township life of the last fifty years. The fact that the author is not African shows in the telling, but it brings a necessary balance to Nomfusi's life story. For many people, the transition from tribe to town is often painful, yet van Riel manages to find the meaningful aspects in this overwhelming process. The Namibia Economist.

 

A glimspe into The Crowing of the Roosters

When we arrived, paraffin lamps shone dimly from inside three traditional huts. One of these rondavels belonged to Jongile, and the other two belonged to his parents. These were the last rondavels to be found before the Nkonkone Mountains; those mountains that run from Fort Beaufort to Whittlesea and are so beautiful - full of snow in winter, and very cold. The white people call it the Winterburg, I think. The Winter Mountains.

Upon hearing the horse, a small dog that was lying in front of the main rondavel got up and started barking. When it heard Jongile's voice it stopped. It was now so cold that I was shivering; even under thick jacket Jongile had given me earlier. The cold autumn night came right through it.

'Come, Nomfusi.'

Jongile opened the door to one of the smaller rondavels and, while he lit one of the paraffin lamps on a wooden table, I looked around the room. There was only one bed, the table with the lamp, and a wooden stool.

Jongile watched me looking at everything. 'Relax, Nomfusi,' he said, not unkindly. 'I will go and ask my sisters to fetch some wood to make a fire for you so that you can wash yourself. Then you will be warm.'

I nodded gratefully. Maybe I will feel better when I am warm, I tried to convince myself.

'I will be right back,' Jongile said, one hand on the doorknob. 'I will tell my parents that you are here. I had already told them that I was going to see you at your home, and that I wanted to choose a woman myself. Not someone they chose for me.'

And with that, he left. A gust of freezing night air swept through the room before he closed the door behind him. It was a menacing sort of cold and I shivered again. From the cold and from my fear.

Of course, I had no clothes or things with me to prepare for a night away from home. No towel or even a change of underwear. Not even a toothbrush. Well, I didn't really worry much about a toothbrush. In those days, we did not have the money to buy the Colgates and the toothbrushes in shops. We just used wood ash and our fingers to clean our teeth at night.

For a while I was still, just standing there, thinking my own private thoughts. A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. It was Nontombi and Boniwe, Jongile's younger sisters. Their names, of course, I did not know at that moment, only later on. Like I also learnt that there were four sisters and six brothers.

These two sisters were very friendly to me. They were smiling and saying, 'Hello, Nomfusi! You are welcome!'

Each sister carried a big pile of wood into the rondavel, which they put on the floor and started building the fire. While they were busy, I looked at them, Jongile's siblings. They, like their brother, were very striking. Nontombi shared her brother's coffee-bean-coloured skin, while Boniwe was lighter than them both.

There was a crackle as the kindling took flame. Soon the fire was going well. Orange flames were licking the heavy pieces of wood, slowly heating up the chilly room. There was a lot of thick smoke making it difficult for me to breathe, but the windows were open so it could escape from there. That was the tradition. A fire was made inside the hut, its black smoke only able to leave through the window. At home, we also had fires inside the house to cook with and to warm us in winter, but we used dry thorn tree wood called umnga. Their wood was different, and it made my eyes sore.

Jongile returned a little while later and, satisfied that the fire was going well, asked Nontombi and Boniwe to bring me blankets and some leftover food. The family had already had their supper, but I of course hadn't eaten anything since that morning. Not that I was hungry. Up to that moment, I hadn't even thought about food.

Jongile watched his sisters leave in silence, then told me that he would sleep in the other rondavel. I would have the room, and the fire, to myself.

I was very happy to hear that.

'Tomorrow, I will bring my parents to meet my makoti, my new wife,' said Jongile breezily before he closed the door behind him.

And then, finally, I was alone.

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Hottentots - Holland Mountains nature reserve, near Somerset West, Western Cape, South Africa.

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author & wildlife writer