Margi homesteads, when they are in the mountains as at Humbili, are surrounded by rock walls. This one was the home of Milamasha, the Ptil Ingkyagu (the head of the ingkyagu), and after his death, of his brother and successor, Utsiawa. It is composed of a house for the compound head, one or more for each of his wives, and various smaller structures such as granaries and the small houses for goats, sheep and chickens. Notice the stacks of pots in the back center awaiting firing.
At the base of the mountains, as at new Kirngu, the compounds are surrounded by fences of woven grass or occasionally by mud walls.This photograph shows men sitting under a great tree located in the center of the relocated royal village. It was the most important meeting place in the kingdom. The compound in the background belonged to the ptil's first minister (makarama), and it has both a mud wall on its front and grass mats elsewhere.
Margi are subsistence farmers, and although ideally the members of a compound should share the labor equally, in fact the rivalry between wives, usually about favoritism toward children, results in a division of farms according to the number of wives modified by the abilities of their children to help with the work. In that case the husband assists each wife in turn. However, it is common that wives do much more farm labor than men (who are likely to insist that they must handle weightier matters as no doubt does the group pictured sitting under the great tree above).
Calabashes, which are used for carrying and storing dry foods, are decorated by being burned with hot knives. It is much more a social occasion than an artistic one. They would much rather score the calabashes in the company of others than work alone, and I never knew a woman who valued a calabash for aesthetic reasons.
In this photograph Nggeramu and her sister-in-law, Ularamai, are breaking ground just outside Kirngu, and you may also note the grass mats which surround their compound in the background. This is a complicated residence that well deserves the word compound. It is headed by the father of Nggeramu and also includes her older brother, Mjigumtu, his wife Ularamai and their infant. Consequently it has two nuclear families within it.
This woman is carrying a head basket of sorghum from her family's fields to her residence in Kirngu. Notice the mat fencing to the right as well as new roofs in the left distance. They are waiting to be hoisted upon the existing mud walls.
Compounds are frequently the hubs of domestic activities.This is the joint family of Milamasha (center) and Utsiawa (left center) working at several ingkyagu tasks in the shade of a tree in front of their compounds. A son in the rear is working on leather, Utsiawa is sharpening a knife, Milamasha is making the scabbard for a jangum or wrist dagger, also shown in the close up at the right, and a wife is showing a drinking basket. The man sitting right center is merely a visitor. (The finished jangum, which is a work of art, may be seen by clicking on my name in the banner on these pages. A discussion of it was featured in Vaughan 1973.)
In these pictures we literally get a peek at a Humbili family unaware. The pictures were taken on two different days. At left the young father is hammering a knife to sharpen it, his young wife in the background is tending an infant, and his older wife is preparing the evening meal. In the picture at right the younger wife is struggling with her obligations to two children.
This woman in Kirngu is preparing her family's evening meal. The photograph was taken in 1971 and illustrates how women's attire had changed since 1960. The on-looking boys were not members of this family and were no doubt following me on my first return to the village after more than 10 years. It was a favorite photograph of my late friend Roy Sieber, who published it in his book African Furniture and Household Objects.