The Story of
Kibaraka the Waterseller
Bi Hamisa Farahani
There once was a person who was of low status, like a slave, and his name was Kibaraka. He lived for a long time in one area of the town. He was asked, “Why don't you marry”? He answered, “I will marry, but not yet”. Again he heard, “Why don't you marry”? And again he replied, “I will marry, but not yet”. Now, Kibaraka, who worked weaving mats, had dug a well of fresh water. All of the king's wells, however, were full of salt. The king sent his people to the poor man, Kibaraka, so that they could fetch water. On the first day, Kibaraka allowed them to fetch water; on the second day, he allowed them to fetch water; and on the third day he allowed them to fetch water. Now, this king had a fair-skinned daughter and, on the fourth day, many kings from different lands came with proposals of marriage for the daughter. But he refused to give her up.
Kibaraka now said, “I am going to marry the king's daughter”.
Others asked him, “But how will you get her? Have not all these kings come to propose for her and been refused? And you are going to marry her”?
“Yes, I will marry her”,he answered.
So he left in the morning and went to his well. The king wanted water, so he said, “All you women, go and fetch water at the well”. They went, but then Kibaraka, the owner of the well, said, “No, you can't have the drinking water. If the king wants drinking water, let him give his daughter to me”. The women left and told the king, “Oh, King, that man, Kibaraka, told us that he won't give away his water. If you want water, you must bring him your daughter”.
Other water carriers were sent for. The king said, “You other people, bring water”. They went and they found Kibaraka sitting there with his weaving. He was sewing like this and he sang to them:
[she sings in a man's voice]
Liliongaluli, liliongaluli mariambwe,1you are sent by the king,
liliongaluli mariambwe, he wants drinking water,
Kibaraka sang his refusal to them. They left and returned to the king, singing:
Liliongaluli, liliongaluli mariambwe, that poor person says,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, he won't give away his water,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, if you want water,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, you should bring him your daughter,
No! The king said many harsh things. “I am the king and this is my child, and I should marry my child to a poor person? Hardly! Send others once again”. Other people were sent. When Kibaraka saw that they were already returning, he began singing:
Liliongaluli, liliongaluli, mariambwe, you are sent by the king,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, he wants water to drink,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, he can't have any drinking water,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, I want his daughter,
Kibaraka told them, “Unless his daughter comes, I’m not giving out any drinking water”. They left and went back just as the sun was setting. The king was hungry and parched from thirst. Nevertheless, still others were sent out very late in the evening to try again.
The women sang to Kibaraka:
Liliongaluli, liliongaluli, mariarnbwe, we are sent by the king,
liliongaluli, liliongaluli, mariarnbwe, we want drinking water,
liliongaluli, rnariarnbwe, his spirit is parched,
liliongaluli, rnariarnbwe, his water is undrinkable,
liliongaluli, mariarnbwe, his water is salty,
The owner of the well replied,
Liliongaluli, liliongaluli, mariambwe, the king has sent you,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, he wants drinking water,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, I'm not giving away drinking water,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, he should bring his daughter,
No! They left and told the king, “Master, that poor person who owns the well, he won't give away his water. If you want his water, you must bring your daughter”. The king replied, “Ehhh! My own daughter. How many kings and princes have proposed for my daughter? And I didn't give her up, did I? Now, I should give away my child to a poor person?!”
Three days passed and the king was hungry to the point where he couldn't stand. “We must have a plan to go forward”, determined the king. So a female Nyasa slave was dressed in finery and then brought to Kibaraka. But Kibaraka immediately recognized who this person was, and he answered them:
Liliongaluli, liliongaluli, mariambwe, this is a Nyasa slave woman,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, who does he think will live with her?
Nooo! So they returned with her. The king's people went and brought a plump Yao slave who shone. They decorated her with gold, and I can tell you, she shone like a mirror! They went with her, but Kibaraka had already recognized that this was a Yao slave woman. They went singing their songs, but Kibaraka answered them:
Liliongaluli, liliongaluli, mariambwe! you were sent by the king,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, he wants drinking water,
liliongaluli,mariambwe, he should send hisdaughter,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, this is a Yao slave woman,
They returned with her. So then they brought an Ngindo slave woman, who was dressed in rich and expensive clothing from the king's own home. She was finely decorated. They went with her to get water. At this point, hunger was hurting the king. Remember, it was three days since he had eaten and they showed this woman to Kibaraka, the owner of the well, and they sang to him:
Liliongaluli, liliongaluli, mariambwe! We have brought you the child of the king,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, we want drinking water,
Kibaraka sang in reply:
Liliongaluli, liliongaluli, mariambwe, you were sent by the king,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, and who wouldn't know who this is? This is an Ngindo slave woman,
They returned with the slave woman. No! Now the king hadn't eaten in four days. There was no water in which to cook anything, the water was undrinkable, and his spirit was parched. So they brought his daughter and covered her with soot and ashes so that even if she was given to Kibaraka, he wouldn't be able to recognize who she was. They covered her with ashes and covered her with ashes - but the person inside was still white. They covered her in ashes from her hair, to her feet and even her shoes! So they lead her to the owner of the well and sang:
Liliongaluli, liliongaluli, mariambwe, we were sent by the king,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, you want his daughter,
liliongaluli, mariambwe, this indeed is his daughter
Kibaraka answered, “Place her inside my home, and go and fetch your water”. They placed her inside, fetched their water, and returned back to the king.
After the daughter of the king was washed and dressed, she was white once again. Kibaraka said to his companions, “Now didn't I in the end get the child of the king? His water was full of salt and it was impossible to cook with it. He sent his people to take my water, but I wouldn't give it away until he gave away his daughter”. After his companions left, some people would pass by laughing. Others were crying because they feared the king's anger if his daughter wasn't returned. Kibaraka said, “Why are you afraid of the king? Didn't the king himself send her? Didn't he send his child in search of a fiancée”?
In the end, the king's people came to summon the daughter and her husband, Kibaraka, to him. They celebrated the wedding for seven days. People slaughtered many heads of cattle, and celebrations followed one upon the other. This is the end of my story.
1 A nonsense rhyme