When I was a little girl, I learnt a song from my sisters. It was a Maragoli folk song, the sad lament of a monkey who had just lost his pregnant partner, Shinyosi. She was carrying sextuplets (inside her) when she was killed by the farmer, Marangaranga, who had caught her plucking a cob of maize from his garden:
LWIMBU LWO KUSYOMA (Maragoli Original)
Nonoji kaduma kalala kalala kalala
Ma Marangaranga ahenzelitsanga, atunyelitsanga:
"Ndori ingugi! Ndori ingugi!"
Marangaranga unyeri vutswa, unziti vutswa!
Yita Shinyosi naheridzi; avana vatano na mulala.
LAMENTATION (Approximate English Translation)
When you pluck just one piece of maize
And Marangaranga sees you, he gets agitated:
"I have seen a monkey! I have seen a monkey!"
Marangaranga has killed me; he has finished me!
I can't believe this!
He has killed Shinyosi, who was pregnant; five children and one.
I am full of grief!
Although I didn't think about it at the time, I now realize that this is a remarkable song. It humanizes the wildlife, our fellow creatures and reminds us of their struggle to survive as we encroach on their natural habitats. In this way, and in other subtle ways, the song reminds us just how precious life is. Today, when I sing the song to myself, I think about our role as stewards of the earth's resources and wonder whether we are living up to our God-given responsibility.