Utushimi: Tales as told by my Grandmother (#WinterABC- Day 20)

In response to the story-telling theme of this week of the WinterABC Challenge, I will be retelling some of the folklore I was told by my grand mother when I was much younger. What better way to preserve them for the generations to come, right? πŸ™‚

For some familiarity, “Utushimi” is a bemba word meaning Stories or Folklore. The singular form of utushimi is akashimi. Bemba is one of the 72 Zambian tribes. Grandmother in bemba is Mbuya. It is safe to call these series: “Utushimi twa ba Mbuya“. One of my favourite things about her stories were that they always had an underlying lesson/ principle as you will see.

Please comfortably gather around our virtual fire and let’s dive into the first story.

Story 1 – The 3 wives to the king

My Grandma always started her stories with “Pali akantunse” (Once upon a time) to which I would keenly respond, “kaikele ngefi fine twikele” (we were sitted as we are sitted).

There was once a King (or Infumu as we would call him in Bemba) who had three wives. The first one was named Inkaka (meaning the quarrelsome one), the second Ulubuli (meaning fighter) and the third Uwaichefya (meaning the humble one). Each of the three wives to the King had sons.

As per the tradition of the kingdom, when choosing the rightful heir to throne, the wives of the King were required to cook delicious meals. The winning meal meant that the son to the preparing mother would be the crowned heir to the thrown.

Inkaka and Ulubuli were the best of friends neglecting Uwaichefya who they would mock and belittle any chance they got. Unfortunately, Uwaichefya’s household never received a fair share of food and other resources as the other two wives would always find a way to deprive her and her son. Consequently, Uwaichefya and the son were malnourished and unkempt.

As the day of the much anticipated cook-out drew close, the King ordered his workers to provide all the wives with the necessary ingredients they would need to prepare their hearty meals. As was their tendency, Inkaka and Ulubuli deprived Uwaichefya of her required ingredients. That notwithstanding, Uwaichefya would sneak out to the trash cans whenever she could and pick the left overs to work with.

After the first rains fell, the kingdom believed the gods had indicated it was time for the cookout to take place. The King and his council of elders gathered around the huts of the wives waiting for them to present their meals. The plate the king would eat from, was the winning meal.

Before long, the three wives appeared before the King and presented their meals. Inkaka had prepared a full inkoko (chicken), nicely roasted and served with ifisashi (vegetables mixed with groundnuts )and ubwali (nshima or cornmeal). The aroma of her food had the council salivating and was only challenged by the meal prepared by Ulubuli prepared her infamous isabi (fish) with katapa (cassava leaves), this was also served with ubwali. Uwaichefye made a meal that can not be desrcibed in words, she cooked the abandoned chicken pieces and the thrown vegetables, this was served on a broken plate as all her kitchen utensils were stolen by the other two.

When Inkaka and Ulubuli glanced at the food Uwaichefya had prepared, they giggled and teased. Reminding her as they usually did that she was not fit to be the wife of the King.

As the King approached the three meals, tension filled the air. The council of elders were confident either Inkaka or Ulubuli’s meals would undoubtedly find favour before the King. Much to everyone’s surprise, including her own, the King ate from Uwaichefya’s plate and by so doing chose her son to be heir to the throne.

Songs of praise and jubilation filled the kingdom whilst Inkaka and Ulubuli mourned in despair.


Lesson: Like I said, most of the Utushimi told by my Mbuya had important life lessons. For a young girl, this taught me to never be mean to people as bad things would happen to me as well. The older I grow, I also draw a lesson towards endurance and having light at the end of the tunnel. Uwaichefya and her son are also living proof that what’s meant to be yours will be yours, despite all odds.

Looking forward to sharing another akashimi that was told by grandmother tomorrow.

Until then,

Live on & read on!

9 thoughts on “Utushimi: Tales as told by my Grandmother (#WinterABC- Day 20)”

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