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Kwege's Identity Is Stolen


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(Zaramo/Tanzania)

A man dies and leaves his son, Kwege, and a slave, Bahati, in the care of his wife. The woman belongs to the sky clan, and rain must never be allowed to fall on her or she will die. One day when rain threatens, the mother sends Kwege to get vegetables for dinner, but he refuses. She goes, telling him that if she dies it will be his fault. When she is in the garden, a cloud gathers, it rains, and she dies. Kwege mourns the death of his mother, and he and Bahati go to his uncle's place. Kwege is handsome; Bahati, ugly. If Kwege steps over a log in the path, he will die; he must be carried over. Bahati agrees to do this, but only if Kwege gives him an article of clothing. By the time they get to the village, Bahati has all of Kwege's clothing, and he introduces himself to the uncle as Kwege, treating Kwege as his slave. Kwege is therefore made to keep the birds from the corn, and as he does so he sings a song lamenting what has happened to him: “Bahati is turned into Kwege, /I weep in the speech of the birds.” His dead parents, having both been transformed into birds, see what has happened, and Kwege tells them the story. The father flaps a wing, and a bundle of cloth falls out; he flaps the other wing, and beads and a gourd filled with oil fall out. His mother flaps her wing, and food is provided. Then they bathe him and anoint him. Kwege hides all these things and returns, but he shines brightly because he has been anointed, raising suspicions. This goes on, and the uncle's son follows one day and sees what is happening. He tells his father that Bahati is Kwege, that Kwege is Bahati. They kill Bahati, and Kwege's identity is restored.

Subjects: Religion.


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