A much-cherished friend told me this story of a very beautiful tradition within an African tribe. I hope that it will raise an awareness of the singular responsibility we carry as women.
Of all the African tribes still alive today, the Himba tribe is one of the few that counts the birth date of the children not from the day they are born nor conceived but the day the mother decides to have the child.
When a Himba woman decides to have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child who wants to come.
And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father and teaches him the song. When they make love to physically conceive the child, they sing the song of the child as a way of inviting the child.
When she becomes pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people gather around him/her and sing the child’s song to welcome him/her. As the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls or gets hurt, someone picks him/her up and sings to him/her his/her song. Or maybe when the child does something wonderful or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song.
In the Himba tribe, there is one other occasion when the “child song” is sung to the Himba tribesperson. If a Himba tribesman or tribeswoman commits a crime or something that is against the Himba social norms, the villagers call him or her into the center of the village and the community forms a circle around him/her. Then they sing his/her birth song to him/her.
The Himba views correction not as a punishment, but as love and remembrance of identity. For when you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when the Himba tribesman/tribeswoman is lying in his/her bed, ready to die, all the villagers that know his or her song come and sing – for the last time that person’s song.
This is a very beautiful tradition and when my friend told me the story, it set me thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice if women from other climes and tribes picked aspects of this for our societies too?
We know that women y their very nature invite spirits into their homes and thus they are responsible for the nature of the child thus invited.
What should we do? Have we done our job properly, can we just shrug and say we have done our bit? This is addressed to women. Please search within the hidden places in yourself, Give yourself this question and answer, when you went to bed with the father of your child as you procreated, what was the most urgent question and request you made to the Creator? That you just want the pleasure of his body? Or in a desperation to get him to pop the question, you get pregnant not bothering what type of child you are inviting into your home?
Who was the guest you gave permission to incarnate?
I am hoping we will ask ourselves this question when we sit down to think about the growing violence in our relationships these days. In as much as I can’t understand the arguments of a rapist and an abuser, I remember this unfortunate fact, unpalatable to me as it may be.
It is that every hero, saintly person, thief, rapist, the pedophile was born of a woman.
That is the bottom line and the tribe of the Himba may have offered the woman something priceless