Cordalia started the fire with a couple of plastic bags, some previous school term’s science homework, and the remaining small pieces of wood from the pile she chopped the day before. While it was catching, she quickly split a couple more pieces to ensure there was enough fuel for the fire to burn while she fetched the water.
The pain in her body from the previous night was starting to subside the more she worked. She was slender but there was a power to her that must have resided somewhere in her bones or her tendons. Throughout the morning, her name could be heard being shouted from one end of the homestead to the next, as she would be instructed to do different chores or carry different items from one elder to the next. In terms of the hierarchy of the homestead, she was at the bottom. She wasn’t the youngest child, but she was not blood related to the family she lived with..
Cordalia was born of two different tribes. She was lighter skinned than the rest of the residents on the homestead. The result of her San heritage. The hunter gatherer, nomadic, and oldest inhabitants of Namibia. Cordalia’s mother was of this tribe and lived on a settlement near the south west edge of the Kavango region. This was common as many San were forced into sedentary lifestyles on these places, similar to the reservations for Native Americans, and have struggled to maintain their customs and find success during Namibia’s period of modernization.
She had a husband there, who like many of the men, was a heavy drinker. He began to sleep with many different women. He said he had to find more women because she was not giving him children. He would disappear for long periods of time, sometimes for work, sometimes not, and provided no financial support.
During the harvest season one year, when she was seventeen, Cordalia’s mother traveled to a farm in the Kavango region of Namibia to work. One the third night she was there, a man traveling from a different region came to the farm for a nights rest. He was a very dark and tall man who claimed he was Caprivian. This man took notice of of the young San woman who was instructed to bring him bread and water. He introduced himself to her mockingly, faking click noises with his mouth, as a slight against her mother tongue. He teased and tormented her until he became bored and sent her away.
Later that night, the traveller entered her tent and raped her. She remained quiet about what happened because she could not afford to lose her job. He had a nice car and was clearly a respected elder in his village. She knew she would have immediately been identified as a liar and a trouble maker if she accused this man of raping her.
She made it through the harvest season without anyone noticing that she had become pregnant, but in her community, everyone would know that she had, and that it was not her husband’s child. Life was about to get very complicated for her.
Her husband did not come back to the settlement until a few months after Cordalia was born. The community members were able to protect Cordalia and her mother for a while, but one night after the husband got very drunk and angry, he murdered his wife for a having a child with another man. He escaped in the night and was not seen again, leaving a fatherless girl, not quite a full year old yet, without a mother as well.
***another long night of work, so this is all I could accomplish for today. Some is better than none I guess.