You could actually see the little grass-thatched hut from the road.
Standing at the door of kabedroom, one would immediately face the big field ahead and see every car that passed by on the road in the distance. Further afield was the family’s own ‘Heroes’ Acre’, the sacred cemetery that housed our dead. To the right was an anthill, and then a big muzhanje tree, generously giving shade all year round.
With a stretch of one’s view, you would be at Chibonore’s farm in Chitowa.
For a long time, kabedroom was an active and visible member of Mbuya Peter’s homestead; a typical traditional homestead consisting of a big round kitchen with its west-facing door, as well as other dwellings such as the granary.
For the kitchen, it was important that its door not face the direction the winds blew from, or else the fire would be blown out, and the rains would coming splashing through its doors. The kitchen was a domineering and self-assured structure with its grass thatch and chisuvi at its top.
As well as being imposing, the kitchen was multipurpose. For cooking yes, for eating, yes. It was and remains a dining room, with varume kubhenji vakadzi pamaponde. It was also the lounge and living room for receiving guests – kutandara – and a place for simply hanging out. It was always warm in the kitchen, with a fire burning, and it was easily converted into a bedroom. In fact, it was the preferred bedroom – especially in winter – when blankets were scarcely enough to go around.
Then there was the other very important structure, hozi, the granary which stored the food for the family. It sat on four big stones which elevated its stature, not that we didn’t already know how important it was to our family. It carried all the food reserves; maize, sacks and sacks of groundnuts, another dura rezviyo, a half sack full of nyemba, on the side.
And my goodness, did the granary became even more special if there was a traditional beer brew. This is where the special brew was kept; fermenting, frothing and developing its sour unique taste. It was a wine cellar of sorts, and therefore, the most secured of all the structures at the homestead.
Mbuya Peter kept the keys for entry on her person, the big key on a chain around her neck. It was almost a permanent necklace and if you were sent kuhozi, you were expected to hand over the key as soon as you were done.
The architecture was sophisticated with the elevated floors and the structured divisions for compartments inside. To gain access to each compartment there was a small entrance, window-like in size. Under the hozi was space for storing bits and pieces, and often, the chickens would prefer to nest there. Whether day or night, you needed a lamp or extra light to navigate your way around the poorly lit space. And this spread an extra mysticism to this special house.
And then there was kabedroom.
It was the smallest round hut at the homestead, made of bricks and grass, thatched, and yet it stood there with confidence and might, claiming its own special recognition. Kabedroom had no real furniture inside, and yet it carried all that it housed with grace.
But the door!
The first door was made from a metal sheet which would shriek kwerere! kwerere! whenever you opened It. It did not fit properly into the door frame and so the door did not close properly. For safety at night, one had to put something heavy against it to hold it; usually a mortar for pounding grain would do.
Well, Mbuya Peter knew that all had to be done to get a better door. And so a makeshift wooden door came next. This one fitted well, except that one corner began to be eaten by termites. So at night, the need for extra safety and protection from the cold breeze called for creativity. New measures had to be found, and an old rug or sack came in handy in covering the holes where the cold wind attempted to force its way in.
“Vasikana, pfekerai chitsaga pamusuwo apo mozotsigira door neguyo.”
It was always my older sister who instructed us.
There was no real lock from inside, and the best thing to do was to place something heavy against the door, like a grinding stone, to create a form of barrier from any intruder.
Suitcases and clothes for the whole family where kept in this special house, kabedroom. There were only two suitcases and one was one handed down from an old aunt. This was the suitcase used for storing all important documents like birth certificates, Grain Marketing Board cards, hymn books and church registers for ruwadzano. This suitcase also carried within it special clothes, Sunday best for all. And for a long time, my yellow dress with the big black buttons found its place in this suitcase. On top of these stacks of clothes was always Mbuya Peter’s church uniform.
Everything for everyone! Mbuya Peter and her daughters, grandchildren and any visitors. This was their room.
The other suitcase was never opened except by its owner. It was remuroora – the daughter-in-law – who was in Harare and was only opened when she came home to visit. It had a blanket, a jersey, some black tommy tennis shoes, wrapped bars of scarlet Lifebuoy soap, Vaseline Intensive Lotion and a night gown. To us, it symbolised another life and world to be discovered.
Body lotion and a night gown!
There was no wardrobe in kabedroom and the rest of the clothes found themselves pamutariro. This was a wire strung from one end of the hut to the other, usually to the back of the door. Clothes on a hanger where then neatly hung, in series, on this wire line. Each person had a section on the line and sometimes, clothes would be hung according to the type of garment. Jerseys here, dresses there, then the wispy blouses following the heavy jackets last.
There was art, class and hierarchy to it.
The other odd pieces found a place everywhere else, with some arranged on top of blankets or in the laundry dish. Not all clothes in this big dish were clean, however. They all just got mixed up as the week went by, only to be sorted on Saturday which was laundry day at either Nyadire River or kunaKatswanda. Sunday was set aside for ironing and sorting.
Kabedroom had no real bed as we know it. We all slept on the reed mat on the floor, with a layer three blankets; one blanket, the slightly thinner one, to cover the mat and two to cover our bodies. When the family had visitors it was the unsaid but natural rule that one of the blankets had to go to them. And then Mbuya Peter, in her wisdom, would bring old cotton sacks to throw over the top blanket for her grandchildren to combat the winter night.
Early in the morning, the mat was simply rolled up and stored behind the door. If someone had wet the blankets at night, the reed mat and under blanket would be spread outside for the sun to dry their indiscretions, ready to give comfort once more by the evening. The other blankets were neatly folded, placed one on top of the other, kuseri kwedoor ikoko. Mbuya Peter was particular that no one could go to school, to the garden, or anywhere else without making the bed.
“Musaende musina kuwarura magumbeze.”
This was the injunction.
Then there was this tiny cupboard which was the single piece of furniture worthy of mention in kabedroom. Its history is not fully known but it carried the special kitchen utensils, our few coffee mugs and extra spoons. It had the big red teapot, the yellow round jug and the basin. It is the cupboard which stored the flour, sugar and cooking oil, food which could not be kept in the kitchen for different reasons.
The cupboard was important because in one of the drawers, we girls kept our pens and other school materials. The paraffin lamp had its own place on top of the drawer, and gave good light to the rest of the house. When it was bedtime, the lamp would be brought down so that it was easy to blow its light out when the time came for dreams pabonde. But before then, we would talk and compare notes about different things; school, friends, boyfriends, house chores, the weather, arguing and quarrelling where necessary. And then there was the synchronised laughter, Chikuweee!, which echoed long and loud into the night.
It was an unwritten code. Zvemukabedroom, zvinoperera mukabedroom.
It was in this room also that prayers would be said. Many Hail Marys crossed the family lips in times of trials and tribulation, and also in moments of joy and celebration. When all the news and gossip were done, the reading and the night prayers too, Mbuya Peter would remind us, almost in a whisper, as though she had heard nothing we had discussed;
“Musakanganwe kudzima kabedroom rambi, asikana, kana mapedza kuverenga”.
Just like the door, the floor went through its own transformation. In its original state, it was quite basic; no cement though nicely done. Once every month, it received a special treat, first a smear of cow dung, and then a pat of leaves, chowa. This left the floor with a nice fresh smell, green colour and all. To achieve the intended results, the door to the little bedroom was left open all day for ventilation, allowing the sun to dry out the dung and its accompanying smell. On the chosen day, the two suitcases, cupboard, blankets, dish and everything else had to be evacuated, returning only to their places in the evening!
Then one day, Mbuya Peter came back from Murewa with two bags of cement. She had just sold her maize at the Grain Marketing Board. This had been her dream for a long time; to fix the floor. The following day, the village builder was at the house, and as was the case on the day we smeared the dung, everything in kabedroom had to be taken out.
She was receiving special treatment, a facelift of a paste of cement. And what a wonderful time it was for us following this makeover! From then on, it was all about buying Sunbeam or Cobra to keep her radiant, or making do with home-made polish from candles. Kabedroom had a new image and stature.
As if she could take a hundred more duties, kabedroom was also known to us as a study room. During the day, one could read lying on the reed mat, stretched out into the shade that kabedroom cast. It was fairly cool and quiet. One could also read, sitting at the door facing the road, watching the buses and cars go buy. One could read loudly, if others were still in the kitchen just to feel the pronunciation of the words filtering into the mind. Listening to the small battery-powered radio play music or other special programmes was another treat.
Many years later, one of Mbuya Peter’s granddaughters visited with her. By now the homestead had gone through an evolution of sorts as there was now a two-roomed house of corrugated iron with kabhoyskaya claiming itself the heir to kabedroom. In it was a wardrobe and some easy sitting chairs, and a bed. Kabedroom, still in existence, commanded her own respect among the rest and still housed mutariro and a few other things. Kabedroom was, however, now more of a storeroom than a bedroom. For a while, kabedroom had not been receiving enough attention and her thatch was falling off.
The visiting granddaughter insisted that she wanted to carry the paraffin lamp while Mbuya Peter carried the basket of groundnuts from kabedroom. But as the little girl lifted the lamp it met with the thatch, igniting fire to the horror of both of them. Mbuya Peter gave a scream as did her granddaughter, who ran out of kabedroom in fright. Kabedroom was facing an unexpected death.
They managed to salvage everything from kabedroom. Before her roof caved in, succumbing to the fire’s might.
It was a traumatic experience. Like losing a loved one. Like the death of that special friend one has enjoyed an intimate relationship with for a lifetime. The news itself caught fire and spread wildly; kabedroom was gone. And for a long time, condolences were expressed at our loss.
I mourn her today, for she carried my life, and that of many others. In her place now stands a big house of many rooms, with all the comforts of modern living. Yet, in my hearts of hearts, kabedroom will always stand out, boldly asserting her own life and contributions to those of others, including my own.
She is forever celebrated!
The post originally appeared here . It has been edited and adapted for Her Zimbabwe.
 the little bedroom
 cap of a grass roof
 men sitting on the benches and the women on reed mats
 a granary compartment for millet
 behind the door there
 “Don’t go before you fold up the blankets!”
 on the reed mat
 What’s said in the little bedroom stays in the little bedroom.
 “Girls, don’t forget to switch off the lamp when you have finished reading.”
 local brands of floor polish
 back house