GOSSIPING is one of the popular activities that idle minds drift into to kill time.
It involves casual engagement in discussions about others and it is usually spiced with some falsehoods or unsubstantiated claims. Gossiping is the blood relative of rumour mongering.
The Kalanga people seem to have perfected the art of gossiping by inventing a stealthy gossip character.
The Kalanga have a character known as Libilibi in the art of gossip. Libilibi defines the people’s imagination and defies the tenets of uneasy oneness. The character is not anyone in particular. Libilibi could be the other you in you as it is the other side of the same coin.
It is your call whether it is heads or tails. Libilibi was necessitated by the love of gossiping about individuals in their presence.
The subject of gossip is assigned the name Libilibi and may inadvertently take part in the banter. Ignorantly, innocently, unwittingly and unknowingly, Libilibi quips in with more slander that pours scorn upon the self.
Libilibi was born out of intelligent sarcasm owing to too much spare time in people’s hands. The witty nature of the Kalanga people is enviable. Women are the most captivating in the art of skilful gossip. Plumtree women are good gossipers and they have a Libilibi for everyone.
A typical gossip conversation would go as follows:
“Libilibi is wearing his Sunday best today,” says MaMoyo who is famous for gossiping.
“He is taking the cattle to the dip tank today!” says MaNyathi, wife to Comrade Stalin.
“In his best suit?” Manana asks.
“The cattle are in trouble today. The whip will crack on their backs,” MaMoyo the gossip initiator states caustically.
At that moment Comrade Stalin, clad in youth brigade gear, joins the conversation. He is angry that someone is thinking of taking cattle to the dip tank on Sunday when he has a party meeting to address. Comrade Stalin is readying himself to drive all the villagers to a party meeting.
“Women, it is Sunday today. There is no scheduled dipping on Sunday. Tell your well-dressed Libilibi to stop thinking about the ticks on his cattle. No-one is going to interrupt my meeting by going to the dip tank. I want everyone at the meeting.”
Comrade Stalin spits venom when he talks about the party meetings.
“This Libilibi we are talking about wants his cattle dipped today at all costs,” MaMoyo helps Comrade Stalin with the character of Libilibi.
“I don’t want disobedience in this ward. No-one should oppose my command. Your stupid Libilibi should not be hijacking my meeting for the sake of some ticks on the village cattle.”
Comrade Stalin begins to show signs of frustration. He wants people to do farming yet he will not have them engage in operations that limit the parasites on their beasts. Comrade Stalin did not realise that he was the Libilibi under witty scrutiny. He was about to drive everyone to a party meeting.
He was a Libilibi who thinks that cattle are not part of the land question like crop farming. This is the Libilibi who gives seed packs and fertiliser to the people of an arid region and demands a bumper maize crop.
As this Libilibi walked away in triumphant gaiety, one could not help realise that he had unknowingly contributed to his own assassination. Comrade Stalin was being derided in a discussion which he happily took part in.
“Libilibi was given a gift by her husband,” MaMoyo was at it again.
“A gift! Is it the one-way ticket to Johannesburg?” MaNtuli said as she tuned into the topic.
“No return?” MaMoyo adds carelessly.
“But Libilibi thought her husband was stingy,” MaNtuli now knows the subject.
“It is an expensive gift, a one-way ticket to Johannesburg. The gift caught her unawares,” says MaNkala who has been quiet all along.
“Why would she not return. Why should she accept a one-way ticket?” asks MaDube, a sickly woman. MaMoyo the senior gossiper of the village gives a blunt answer: “The husband cannot afford a return trip.”
“Why does she not refuse to go?” MaDube tries to reason on behalf of the Libilibi she did not know.
MaDube was the Libilibi. Her chivalrous and lecherous husband had infected her with the viruses of eternal peril. She was ungainly and sickly and her husband was also frail and emaciated. The gossiping women of the village concluded that the two had exchanged the gift of ill health; a one-way ticket to the dark side of life.
So, this is how Libilibi works. Do not laugh loud at the follies of Libilibi as you might be laughing at your own folly. Anyone can be a Libilibi. The school headmaster is a Libilibi who fondles books. The country’s president is a chief executive officer of a company in sequestration.
The chairman of the local wing of the Taliban is a Libilibi who claims to have died for the top soil. An operative who leads an election campaign is a Libilibi who sells limited choices. A die-hard party man who leads an orgy of violence is a Libilibi of the Jihad movement.
In the eyes of the Kalanga gossip mongers, we are all Libilibis.
Masola Wadabudabu is a social commentator