This past weekend, on a walk to visit some friends who live in the countryside, we learned about the verb kwikorera. It might be my new favorite verb in Kirundi. Kwikorera means "to put something on one's head."
Even better, there are in fact two verbs in Kirundi which mean "to put something on one's head," the nuance being the degree of formality with which one carries the object on her head. The picture at right, informal yet impressive, shows a classic display of kwikorera. Thousands of Burundian kids carry water from a well in these yellow containers.
The more formal kwiremeka is shown below. When people go visiting, they bring gifts for the hosts (rice, eggs, fruit, vegetables, or even chickens) in these hand-made baskets called ibiseke. When the visit concludes, the hosts fill the baskets with return gifts and then escort the visitors back home, carrying the baskets on their heads beautifully and effortlessly, like this:
Along our walk we encountered various others who were out kwikorera style, including the women and children pictured below. This is the most common local method of transporting things, it seems, and the items most frequently found on heads around here are:
1. baskets of all sorts, often carrying food
2. boxes with unidentified contents
3. sticks and firewood
4. jugs of water
It looks painful to the neck, doesn't it? Our experienced friends tell us that it's not painful unless the load is particularly heavy.
I am considering adding kwikorera practice to our children's daily list of chores.