THIS week’s trip down memory lane takes us back to the 60s with Nombulelo Luwaca reminiscing about the days when she used to walk around Mlungisi singing hit songs from the past.
Luwaca, who is known to many in the township as Leta, was named after South African jazz singer Leta Mbuli.
“I used to love walking around the street singing my favourite songs and people started calling me Leta. That name has since remained with me. Leta Mbuli and Mahlathini used to perform in Komani when we had big music shows and I used to imitate them.”
She says back in those days people moved around their residential areas without any fear of crime.
“It was such fun growing up in Komani in the 60s.We went to the hall often, we had an event called Emankonkweni, when a lot of guys made music with their guitars. When we got hungry in the afternoon, we would go home to eat and go back to the hall again,” she said.
“There were a lot of beauty pageants, but I never entered those things. I did not like it so I chose to play netball.” The first of five girls says boxing was one of the most popular sports in the township.
“The boxers were also bouncers at the events that used to take place at the hall. We reported to them about anybody who mistreated us, they punished one boy so badly that he was never rude to us again.” She says young girls never idled their time away and their diet consisted of healthy grains and vegetables
“We ate a lot of mngqusho [samp and beans] and vegetables that made us strong.” A local butchery and supermarket provided the children with their surplus.
“As youngsters we used to get the left over pork from the butchery in the township. We also went to the supermarket where we were given vegetables. We used to walk home with boxes on our heads full of veg and fruit. We always had full stomachs, we were happy kids.”
Luwaca later worked at Queen’s College with her mother as domestic workers.
“I enjoyed working at that school. Sometimes when I walk in town some of those kids say my name but unfortunately I have forgotten who they are. Working at Queen’s taught me how to cook. I still cook for myself. Even my daughter knows I do not want other people to cook for me.” She says she was caught unaware when she met her husband.
“I was close friends with his sisters. I used to spend a lot of time at their house because they used to sew clothing for the locals. One day they gave me a traditional dress and said I should try it on. When I asked who it belonged to, they said it belonged to a customer. Shortly after that they gave me shoes and said I should keep the attire because it looked nice on me.”
A few weeks later, her husband brought a sheep home.
“He worked at the army and came back early on that afternoon. He went to his little shack at the back and after changing his clothes he joined us. Suddenly members of his family started being friendly towards me, and making traditional food. I was not aware of his intentions at all.” After some singing traditional Xhosa songs, the elders of her husband’s family asked her to marry their son.
“They called me into a room and closed the door. They said they wanted me to stay at their house and that it would become my new home. They told me to take off my fashionable girl clothes and gave me traditional clothes. I could not believe I was going to wear those clothes in that heat!”
She says life back then was based on good principles of selflessness, love and respect.
“Our days were better. These days there is a lot of violence. The kids of today can rob me, we are not safe.”