On her sixth birthday she went to school. “You must choose an English name,” said the Presbyterian teacher, but Ntsiki liked her own name. “Why do I need a new name?” she asked. The teacher scowled and read the names aloud: “Adah, Agnes, Albertina, Anna.” What did they mean? Ntsiki liked the long name best. Al-ber-ti-na! The name had rhythm. Al-ber-ti-na! The name had bounce. Albertina was a name you didn’t mess with.

When her cousin married a handsome man from a nearby town, Albertina was chosen as an umkhapi. The maid of honour! Weeks before the wedding, she stitched her isikhakha, the short traditional skirt, and threaded bright beads onto her amatikiti. Her mother gave her the white flag and said, “You have a big job, my blessing.”

At the bend in the road Albertina waved the flag, then turned Shishi back, leading everybody from miles around to the ceremony. People would gossip if she made a mistake, but the guests lined the road. They ululated and sang. They threw down flowers for the horse and the girl.