14 September, 2013

Beating Mahangu

Here are some pictures and a video of my first attempt at beating mahangu. Mahungu is a grain (millet) that is used for soft porridge, oshifima (a harder porridge – almost like hard mashed potatoes), oshikundu (a drink), traditional “bread” (made with some sugar and salt – no yeast, and either fried or boiled in a plastic bag), and many other things I'm sure we haven't even had yet! After it's been harvested, the grain needs to come off the stalks. I know there are machines that do this, but that costs money, and so most people, at least here in the village, BEAT it. After this beating, then it is pounded into a fine flour. I will have another blog post with a video of me attempting to pound sorghum, along with some pictures, during the process of making the traditional beer, omalodu.

But for this post – it's all about mahangu!

Here are some pictures of the day I helped. We all went out into the field to help – me, my brother and sister, my niece and a few other kids from the village – all helping in this process. After the long day of work in the sun, we cooked food for all the kids – they sure worked hard! Now, before you watch the video, understand that this was my first time. These kids are experts! The motion is a weird one – sort of like a golf swing or a slap shot in hockey – with no follow-through. And I was really watching these kids to try to do it the same way – but, well, no such luck this first time. Maybe next season.....

my brother and sister, Nafimane & Anna
I told them I wanted to help this particular day. They laughed. They warned me that my skin would probably itch from the dust of the mahangu, and that my hands were too soft (they say this alllll the time! They would even let me get near the fire for a while – they said my hands and skin had to “roughen up” a bit). Anyway, they were right – my neck was itchy afterwards, and I was only able to beat the mahangu for a short time, before I developed blisters on my hands....

my brother, Nafimane

Ahhh...but I'm slowly building up the skin on my hands, and so maybe next season will be better....

One more thing to note about this day...

As we were out in the field, under the hot Namibian sun, listening to some fun Namibian music on the radio, working our butts off, a plane flew overhead....

They said “Oh look! The President is in town....”

My village is next to the President's....and I had this moment thinking, “wow – what a dichotomy...here we are in the field, laboring over harvest....and there is the President, flying high above us, in his private jet....”
In Namibia's National Anthem, there is a line “Contrasting, beautiful Namibia...” - and this is just one of the many examples I've witnessed, bringing truth to this line in the song....


  1. Well, at least you tried. It doesn't look easy, nor fun. How can you tell if it done? I liked some of your body moves!! How often do they have to do that? weekly, monthly? I give you credit for trying.

    1. Hi Karen! haha! Yes, and next season, I plan on working on my technique a little more! And yes, these kids work their butts off!

      As far as knowing when it's done, the reason behind the "beating" is to get the little grains off the stalks. So, you just beat and beat the mahangu until you see just the grains....
      And they do this after harvesting the mahangu - which is usually once a year.

      Thanks for keeping up with my journey....and tell my parents I said hello!