Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Village Hut Sleep


By Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D. Emeritus Professor of Sociology

When I established the Mwizenge Sustainable Model village in rural Lusaka in Chongwe in 2018, the purpose was to recreate the village cultural experience. This is primarily because I deeply cherished my childhood village experience when I was six years old in 1960 and Chipewa Village in Lundazi district in Eastern Zambia. I assumed others might want to relive that experience even if it is just for a day.

So it was with great anticipation recently that I went to the village to spend ten days. I designed the village such that there is a small brick house for the caretaker. But about one mile up the hill, there are 5 huts that were built in the Tumbuka traditional structure style. This location has no lights and no cars are allowed there. Only fire, flash lights or torches are allowed in order to maintain the pristine village experience.

My evening starts with taking a warm bath which my hosts do provide. After my bath I put back on my trousers, gam boots, and long-sleeved night gown or robe so that I can cover my arms. This is the worst time for mosquito bites since I will be sitting enjoying a quiet evening sitting on the chiwundo corridor of my hut. I saw the crescent thin moon the first night as I waited for my dinner. The dinner was nshima with delicious village chicken.

After dinner was some of the best part of the evening. I see bright swarth stars of the bright expanse of the milky way. I contemplate how many times I have seen the milky way in the village in my life. There is a big twinkling star just below the leaves of a tree and above the grass on the roof of the kitchen. There are always the three stars that are lined perfectly in the middle of the sky. I have always seen those three stars. I hear the crickets and just a cacophony of night insect sounds. One night I heard the characteristic loud moaning whistle which people in the village said was the Chipili snake. I wished then I could walk into the bush and investigate. The snake would probably just shut up once it heard me coming.

And then heard the lovely song of the night bird whose lyrics are very slow;

Anya Zgobela (Nya Zgobela)

Tendenge bana bane (Lets walk together my children.)

I remembered the lyrics from when I was a child during those bright village moonlights. It was time to go to bed at 21:00hours or 9:00pm.

My bed was a thin mattress placed on a reed mat mphasa and a bed sheet and a blanket to cover with. I put up and tacked in my brand-new mosquito net. I folded my bath robe or gown and used it as a pillow. Inside my mosquito net covered bed, I put by my head a flashlight or torch, my wrist watch, my cell phone which I turned off and my small shortwave radio. I soon turned off my flashlight. Suddenly it was not just dark but so pitch black dark that I could not see my finger 2 inches in front of my nose; this is total darkness. I soon fell asleep.

At 2:00 am I woke up because I ran out of sleep. Some nights I turned on my short-wave radio. Most nights I did not turn on the radio and enjoyed the serenity and sounds I heard outside and inside the hut. Sometimes I heard people walking along the path 50 meters behind my hut. This path connects two villages. Sometimes I thought the voices could be witches. Many nights I just enjoyed the serenity and the total darkness. At 4:00hrs I fell back asleep.

At a certain time, I saw a tiny thin slither of light in the crack of the small wooden window. I was excited as that was the tale-tell sign of day break. It was exciting as the light grew and filled the hut. It was 5:30hrs.

I crack open my hut door to see the dawn of the new day. When I emerge, the air is fresh and crisp and the bird sounds are spectacular. I slowly walk to the toilet in my warm robe. I come out of the toilet and take a slow walk back to the hut. I stop, look at the trees, the birds, and gaze at the glow of the sunrise in the east. I take a big breath and just in that moment appreciate the great blessing and gift being alive.

“Where else can I experience all of this purity of life, besides here at the model village?” I ask myself.


  1. You can experience it in the real villages apart from the Model Village. Always a good read doctor. Could you write something about your experience or lack thereof with witchcraft whilst growing up in the village?

  2. This is a great initiative and one that must be encouraged by others. We need to promote our rural and cultural background, we must see to it that villages where we all originally come from are clean, well organised and planned plus most importantly roads to those places must be improved and constantly maintained. If we can achieve this it will make our rural areas not only an attractive place for foreign tourists but we ourselves will be visiting back home ku munzi/ mushi more often and that will help make those places economically sustainable for those who live there.

  3. The experience is similar to that of camping or caravaning in the West. The good thing about it is that you always know that it will end and you will be back to a proper toilet. However, for many, there is no end in sight to the day and nightmare.

    • That’s why we need to see to it that the rural areas and these village settlements so to speak are upgraded and maintained better…we need proper roads and a maintenance attached to those roads, we need a standard of rural housing that should be used for all rural dwellers. Expenditure used on social welfare programs such as social cash transfer I believe are better utilized in turning the rural areas into a village paradise for the dwellers and visitors alike.

  4. Dr Mwizenge was at Chizongwe Boys i think he used to be in Skeva Soko Hostel….I used to be in Nsingo Hostel

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