In the South of Mbiu nation, was a vast dry creek of land full of cacti, tumbleweeds and sand. The ground was too hard and dry and the sun a little too harsh on the skin. The land was bare, and noiseless except for the occasional screeching of eagles and fluttering shift of feasting birds. The air smelled like dry baked earth and the dust devil swirled across the canyon like a rattlesnake. Yet in all the seemingly inhabitable traits of this desert, the tribe of Zatura found the beauty in the unfathomable and called it home. They navigated the desert with the help of stars, setting up homesteads and driving their herds of camels, goats and cows along with them. They moved towards waterholes and oases in the desert intuitively and oftentimes trusted their animals to lead them towards the waterholes. Owing to their nomadic lifestyle, they labelled themselves as ‘free men’ as they did not subscribe to the idea of being tied down.
The Zatura people were more trusting and empathetic as compared to any tribe in the nation of Mbiu. They easily welcomed people from other tribes and encouraged social interactions on the same. They were generally long-term thinkers and quite intelligent, an aspect that made them think ahead in everything they allowed into their community. Intermarriages were highly encouraged and used to fortify social relations with other tribes, a move that would create a niche into barter trade. Zatura had an advantage over the other tribes in the nation- despite their land being the least productive. The desert was a hub of gold, which was their greatest means of livelihood. The young men of the tribe would dig out gold in pits, on the Queen’s command and they take them to their clan leaders who would later submit them to the Queen. They would exchange this gold for foodstuff, water and weapons which they were unable to obtain from their infertile ground.
The tribe was divided into four clans known as Inibo. The clans were directly ruled by the Queen mother, Gaya a position that was hereditary in her lineage. The Inibos were each named after her four sons and were headed by a chief elder, elected by the Queen. An Inibo was organised into small huts that were spaced out and were not barricaded. Every Inibo had a group of young men were selected to join other young men from the other Inibos to form an army that provided security to the the tribe of Zatura. The selection was done through a rigorous process where each man was required to walk through the desert to Guerdon for thirty moons with neither a bag of food nor a calabash of water. The young men were however commissioned by the Queen, with a word of advice “Fear no forest because it is dense”. The young men who made it back in a stable physical condition were commended and awarded by being allowed to join the army.
The four Inibos were led by an elder who would take charge of the social matters concerning the clan. He was an extension of the Queen mother’s jurisdiction. The people lived in loosely constructed temporary structures, made of cow dung and mud. The exterior of the structures was beautifully decorated in patterns of darker or lighter shades of mud mixed with ochre. The children entered age sets where both boys and girls would be initiated into adulthood through circumcision after completion of thorough teachings. The girls were taught how to make bead work, and cook and clean their homes, by their mothers and older women and generally long-term prepared for marriage. After a woman had completed her initiation, she was married off to a different clan. The man was required to walk to Guerdon, to show his perseverance and commitment in adversity through the marriage- to obtain a gourd. He would carve out the gourd and decorate it with a symbol of their clan and present it to the elders and the Queen who would bless it and pour the liquid on the doorstep of their homestead. After the ceremony, the woman was required to start wearing beads on her legs and head as a symbol that she was no longer a single woman.
The Zatura tribe lacked a monotheistic faith, but vehemently believed in two things; the cardinality of the stars and the fertility of the gourd. Their strong sense of intuition culminated in their successful discovery of the oases made their belief in the cardinality of the stars something they swore by. The gourd was their most sacred ornament that hung in the homestead of every married woman, consecrated by the Queen that was believed to dismantle the spirit of barrenness.
check out Zatura- ZATURA: The life of Losiwe