Intrigues at the Grinding Mill - Kuchigayo

Posted March 30, 2013 from Zimbabwe

By Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda*

It took us almost an hour, and yes by foot for us to reach the nearest grinding mill (kuchigayo). It did not matter whether we went kuChitowa, kwaKareza or kwaMuhume, the distance was almost the same, and each journey and grinding mill had its story. I kind of anticipated this chore every month. Well, because it broke the routine of spending the day watering the garden or weeding the field. The 20 cents for buying a coke with buns was an extra incentive.

The grinding mill at Kareza was not reliable. It was often broken, or there was no diesel. I was also afraid of crossing the narrow Nyadire bridge in case we meet the bus or a car in the middle and and alas! We were always warned, " be careful paBridge, pane ngozi" as we tied our tsapo of 10kg of maize with a string of rwodzi or dhirau.

Kareza was a quiet place, the shop did not have many provisions. So, there was not much fun. You could be the only one pachigayo. On a busy day, there will be some people from Giridhi farm (now village 10), from Nyazema or Marumisa village. We had to pass through a forest patch, kumajeke, before this deforestation. I was always afraid of kubhinywa or just that something bad would happen. I never really liked going to the grinding mill at Kareza.

Chitowa grinding mill, was such a distance. We would pass through the small scale farms either using Chibonore route or kwaDune. It was almost ritual to stop at the borehole along the road opposite Matongorere farm, where my cousin sister is married. If we met some people, we would inquire after her, her children and well being. Once in a while, we would stop by and visit her, and we knew we will be offered some tea, in a big red teapot, and poured in these large tin mugs. They belong to the John Masowe Apostolic church, so we assumed they will always have tea! We preferred stopping by on the way back when we would be tired and hungry, so that we can have some rest and something in the stomach!

The grinding mill at Chitowa was along the Murewa, Mutoko-Nyamapanda highway. It was like going to town, just cross the big tarred busy road. The usual warning, muchenjere pakucrossa road, was the echo of Amai's voice still ringing in our ears. The place was a clean and not so busy place. The little shop was always full and we had a choice of plain biscuits, assorted choice, vanilla cream biscuit or lemon cream! Buns, candy cake or half loaf.

This is the moment I like most, just sitting at the verandah of the little shop, with fanta or cold Tarino watching the buses or fast cars zoom by. We would wave, and name the of the bus. Of course, Mugaisi after some time, would remind us that its a long distance home, and we should not be late with the mealie-meal because people at home are waiting. We would happily say goodbye, and mugaisi, the miller would give us his warning not to stop along the way or play at the borehole!

The grinding mill at Muhume was the busiest of them all! It served many villages from Magaya, Jakopo, Ruze, Dizha, Dzotizei and at times people came as far as kwaGutu. At one time there was more than one grinding mill. We preferred to go one at which our uncle Gina was the miller. We were treated better, we thought. We would jump the queue (not good practice now I know), he would keep our stuff as we wandered in the shops doing groceries.

Muhume, was busy then. There were many shops and choices, Mazarura, Musengeya, Mazhindu. There was the bar and the dip tank. So one had to just go very early in the morning because the queues could be so so long. Even though we were young girls, the usual warming was about zvikomana zvekwaDzotizei nemaJakopo. Our mother and older sisters would insist that we had to be careful because these boys were rude, aggressive and bad things could happen. The tip given was if you see them follow you, RUN! Another piece of advice was for us to walk with some the elders and not be by ourselves. This meant waiting for some women from our village who may be way behind in the queue.

The grinding mill will always be a social place. Now that we buy processed mealie meal in shops, which is more efficient, and there is time and labour saving. I miss the social aspects, the intrigues at the grinding mill. One learnt so many life skills, negotiation skills, social and interpersonal skills, indirect information on dating and relationship things. It was also simply a day out of routine. Next time you have an opportunity, visit the grinding mill.

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is the founder of Rozaria Memorial Trust established in honour of her late mother.

Comments 3

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Apr 11, 2013
Apr 11, 2013

Thank you for sharing your story of your learnings that occurred at the grinding mills as a child. I can tell the mills hold a special place in your memories.

Apr 14, 2013
Apr 14, 2013

Your story-telling is filled with energy and it makes me very happy to read. A few times I wondered at the meaning of some of the words that must be local to Zimbabwe, and I am curious as to their meaning. It might be fun for you and the reader both to translate some of them, such as "pane ngozi", "tsapo", "rwodzi", and "dhirau", for example.

Apr 26, 2013
Apr 26, 2013

Its poignant. And a gift to be able to value what has been a part of our lives. Every event every incidence makes the tapestry of our lives only richer. Thanks for sharing. I was virtually transported to the grinding mill as i was reading.It was as I was there!