The basket lay in front of Gogo’s hut on an old buck skin.
“It’s very dirty,” said Mr Mthembu. “And frayed too. See here above the yellow zigzag pattern.”
“Of course it is dirty and broken a little,” said Gogo, in a voice hoarse with age and anger. “This basket is from the days of my many-times-great grandmother. From back when Shaka ka Senzangakhona was King. From when my ancestor was apprenticed to the dreaded Nobela.”
“Nobela?” said Mr Masonda. Like Mr Mthembu, he wore a suit even though it was a hot day in the KwaZulu hills. “Chief diviner of Shaka’s compound?”
“Yes, Nobela the diviner. My many-times-great grandmother gathered magical herbs for Nobela. That was her duty. See at the bottom of the basket – some of her herbs still lie there. It was her father that wove this basket: my many-times-great grandfather.”
“Yes, I see,” said Mr Masonda. “But there is another problem. We have no way to authenticate. No papers. No documentation.”
Gogo glared at the two antique dealers. “My stories have been passed down with great care through generations. Like this basket. There was a time when all our truths were told by word of mouth. A time when paper and writing were foreign to our people. Did you forget that when you put on your fancy foreign suits and went to live in your fancy foreign brick houses?”
“Five hundred rand. That is all we can offer, Gogo.”
“Only five hundred? This basket is beyond value. It is woven from the rich history of our ancestors! From the glorious days of the Great Elephant. I must sell only because my grandson Sipho needs school fees. And a uniform. And shoes.”
The two men whispered together. “Alright. Eight hundred. That is the best we can do.”
Mr Masonda counted out the money. Mr Mthembu covered the basket in bubble wrap. Together the two men headed for their shiny four-by-four parked on the dirt road.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Trust me, we will make a killing, Mthembu. Seven, eight thousand at the least. See this golden-yellow dye? The recipe was lost around the time of Shaka. No-one today knows how to produce it. No, Mthembu, this is the genuine article.”
“Definite! Even that bit about the grandfather. In the old days it was indeed the men who wove baskets. Not women.”
Carefully they placed their acquisition on the back seat. The smell of the herbs seeped through the bubble wrap and filled the car. The men didn’t seem to notice.
But they did notice the young boy. He appeared from behind a bush.
“Damn! I hope he didn’t hear us,” said Mthembu.
“Doesn’t matter. I’m sure he didn’t understand.” The men drove off in a cloud of dust.
The young boy, Sipho, ran to the hut. “Gogo, Gogo! I heard them. They will sell for seven, maybe eight thousand. They are such thieves and robbers!”
Gogo just smiled.
Tell us what you think: Why is Gogo smiling when she has just been cheated by the antique dealers?