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  • Lorraine Johnson

[69] A Story

It was a day in the village of Mecoripo—a village in the district of Namuno in Mozambique's southwest region of Cabo Delgado—an ordinary day in 1995. Queen Charifa Muco, a beautiful old lady adorning a silver, coin-sized earring pierced in the side of her nose, sat with me on a grass mat under the shade of palm tree, and told me the story about the mountain known as Phambara—the same story she was told by Supuryiai, Nwecharica, Mueraina, and Assifa.

The mountain used to carry the same name as the village, Mecoripo, but as the people began to travel there to ask their spirits for good health, they changed the name to Phambara—Emakhua for "The Place of Spirits."

A long time ago when the Portuguese started to occupy this area, the people tried to resist. Conflicts started, so the Chief of the Land decided it was best to run away to the mountain for protection to save the clan. They called him Namkélamu. He was married to a queen called Nantxúpamu. The Chief and his wife, along with the Chief's sister Queen Namakhukhu and his nephew Somari, escaped to the mountain. They stayed on the mountain for many weeks, until they eventually died of hunger and thirst.

After some years a chief called Supuryiai, who was living in Mecoripo, along with three other people, Nwecharica, Mueraina, and Assifa, all had the same dream, simultaneously. In this dream, their spirits told them that they had to go to the mountain and clean inside the cave where their ancestors had died.

After the vision passed, they all became sick, and lost consciousness for about thirty minutes, waking in good health. Chief Supuryiai told the people that the spirits of the mountain had entered him, and told him that he and the others had to go to the mountain and clean inside the cave. And after they cleaned the cave, the people would be able to go there and talk with their spirits to ask for whatever they needed. And the spirits, if they agreed, would grant them their wish. It was from this day forward that the people began to call the mountain Phambara, "The place of spirits."

It's a bigger story—a complex one about having a chosen guide who shows you how to climb the mountain, be transformed and stand on ground once again. A story of tradition, beliefs and hope, a story like so many others—of humanity—simply disguised in a different culture, package and song.


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