On Saturday night I attended my first South African house party. Hosted by the same friend of Mer’s who was involved in the days’ event, it was a going away celebration for her upcoming move to Pretoria. Upon our arrival, the festive mood was apparent as soon as we stepped through the doorway. The mouth-watering smell of pan fried fish filled the air, complemented ever-so-nicely by the sounds of loud Xhosa music and raucous laughter. It didn’t take long before the singing and dancing started, which I couldn’t wait to join in on (the dancing not the singing, obv.)
Soon we had a full on dance party going, with one particular song on repeat. The beautiful voices of the women I was dancing with sang the lyrics, with extra emphasis on the chorus.
Phonetically to me, it sounded something like: Nagwazugweeeeenza (I later came to find out that it is spelt: Uyakwazi Ukwenza), which the women explained to me means ‘you can do it’. To personalize things in the Xhosa language you add an ‘Ndi’ in front of it, so ‘ndiuyakwazi ukwenza’ becomes ‘I can do it’.
‘I can do it’. I like. Immediately learnt the saying by heart, and began singing along while dancing (to the great amusement of my dance partners). Soon, it was a chorus of ‘Uyakwazi Ukwenza’ and ‘yea girl! You can do it!’ directed at me. Amazing/awesome. A stellar evening all around.
On Monday morning while I was getting into the car for the ride to school with other teachers, performing my usual balancing act of my school bag, lunch bag, mug of tea and keys (usually in the mouth), N. reached out to offer her assistance. Despite needing it, I jumped at the opportunity. “Ndiuyakwazi Ukwenza,” I told her.
The surprised laughter that erupted from the car was priceless. “What??” they asked, “Where did you learn that?!” I told them that at a party on Saturday then proceeded to sing the chorus while breaking into a mini seated dance. They loved it. Again with me being a big dork and double again with me not caring.
Two Xhosa sayings that have stuck with me from the first time I heard them – Ndisafunda and Ndiuyakwazi Ukwenza. I am still learning and I can do it.