AUTHOR: Njabulo S Ndebele
DATE: 1 September 2012

DESCRIPTION: My mother, Regina Makhosazana, uMaTshabangu, was a modern nurse and a devout Christian. But every so often, she got the three of us (she, my younger brother, and I) to kneel around an ember-hot piece of coal on which she had sprinkled impepho. She kept the brown powder in a small newspaper wrapper in a drawer next to her bed. It was my responsibility to fetch the coal from our Ellis Deluxe stove in the kitchen. This would be the last ritual of the day before we went to bed. To get the right piece of coal from the stove could be a tricky manoeuvre. There were two ways to do it. The first was more dangerous, but more likely to win my mother’s praise. It promised a good-sized piece of red hot coal. When you kneeled close enough, the smoke of impepho curling up from it, you could feel such a coal’s heat on the tip of your nose. “Mfana!” mother would say if I could obtain so great a prize, “you got just the right coal!” I would swell with pride.

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