once was a woman called Mamasilo, who went out one day to
cultivate a new field. But she did not know that this field
actually belonged to a powerful god—or spirit, if you prefer
that word—who sometimes appeared in the form of a bird.
To Mamasilo, the field was just wilderness, weeds, and shrubs—a
place to make a garden—so she proceeded to clear it away
with her hoe. But after she had worked an entire day, Mamasilo
was suddenly startled by a sound: “rrrr …” It was a little
bird perched on a shrub that she had not cleared away yet.
The bird sang a song in a human voice:
I am Senyamafi!
This field belongs to me.
Weeds grow tough! Shrubs come back!
Of the hoeing leave no trace or track!
At once, all of Mamasilo’s work was undone. The grass
that she bad uprooted with so much effort grew back as thick
as before, and the shrubs she had pulled out with all her
might sprouted back in place, more firmly rooted and thornier
than ever. As the sun was setting, it was too late for Mamasilo
to start all over again. So, sadly, she returned home and
told her husband about the bird that called itself Senyamafi
(which roughly translates “Producer of Yogurt”).
However, her husband was undaunted, and he devised
a plan. The next day they went out to the field together.
Following her husband’s instructions, Mamasilo dug a deep
hole, in which her husband set down. Then she filled the
hole back up with dirt until only his hand stuck out of
the earth. Once again, she began to hoe and clear the field.
And once again, as her labors came to an end and sunset
approached, the bird returned to sing its little song. But
this time, Senyamafi perched on the hand that stuck out
of the ground, thinking it was a branch. The hand quickly
closed and caught the bird. Mamasilo dug up her husband
and together they set out for home with their prize.
The bird protested: “I am Senyamafi, I can make you
yogurt. Set me free and I will give you food, I will fill
“At home,” said the man. “We go home first!”