In spite of the fact that most people are on the road to modernization, there are those who are not bothered by modern trends and are still living in the Stone Age. An example is Ssalongo Ndawula Magobwe, who has lived alone in the caves of Golofa Island in the middle of the great waters of lake Victoria in the same manner early men used to live.
Ndawula typifies the original Stone Age men. You would imagine how he copes with this wildlife, but he kills off boredom by interacting with the wild animals, which are his only immediate neighbors. Sometimes he moves around the Island collecting fruits and gathering objects of interest to him and the gods, like strange stones, and picking medicinal herbs with the guidance of spirits. He also says that he was forbidden to cross the water to another Island or else he risks losing his powers or even death.
This is what Ndawula told me when I asked him why he decided to chose a lonely life: “It was not my own making to come here, but the will of the gods whom I could not have resisted.” Ssalongo Ndawula Magobwe, who is not far from youth at about 35years of age, is said to have lived on this mysterious Island since the age of 18years.
He is said to be possessed by the great by the great spirit called Magobwe, from which he derived his third name and which is believed to have the power to control all the activities on lake Victoria and surrounding areas.
Amazingly, Ndawula lives a very simple and virgin life and is not bothered by what is happening elsewhere in the world. He does not even possess a simple radio, nor anything to read, because his god forbids them. He is not married, nor does he have a child, but he has reincarnated his ancestors in the wild animals that he has lived with for all this time.
Surprisingly, he has plenty of food and drinks provided to him by the sailors and fishermen en route to Kenya and Uganda’s major fish landing sites.
For him, the burden of sweating for food as the Bible mentions is not applicable, because at least every vessel crossing his channel drops by and tosses him something as an appeasement to the spirits, for their safety and prosperity.
In short, his life is entirely left to those it may concern due to the strict regulations attached to his ancestral office.
But when he wants to feel the exposure of the outside world, he just climbs the rocks to the peak and from this point, with his whisk in his hands, he enjoys the panoramic view.
It is from this point also that he is able to see all the strangers and visitors approaching his fort and he is never caught unawares owing to the additional fact that his gods protect him jealously. He told me that nothing will ever happen on Lake Victoria without the knowledge of the gods. This reminded me of the quotation by Sophocies, the author of the book king Oedipus ” Only the ageless and endless gods know everything.”
“When the gods get angry with people-especially when they insult each other and the lake-is when you here of all those fatal water accidents and the unproductivity of the lake,” Ndawula says. The strongest man is the one who stays alone, but Magobwe has portrayed his powers in various ways. Unfortunately, despite the fact that Ndawula looks after thousands of animals, including, goats, sheep, cows and wild animals like crocodiles, he doesn’t eat meat or take milk. Maybe this is the reason why his herds, mostly got from the extra duties of the ancestral office of traditional healing and by breeding, have multiplied greatly.
For him, he attends to the patients who seek his offices’ help free of charge, but when the gods demands for something, then it should be given as so desired. If it is an animal like a goat – as it is in most cases-or a bird, he simply sends them into the wilderness on his island. As for the wine, he keeps it in the holy shrine for himself, the visitors and the gods to make merry. Mysteriously, the story of how this gentleman got to this place remains a mystery to the fishermen and even to himself.
A legend i was told is that a long time ago, there lived a clan of people who never crossed water but always had enough to eat; never entertained visitors and spoke their own dialect. Later; they disappeared, while rumors went around that they went back to their gods, leaving behind nobody to look after their holy island. But Fred Kintu Mutebi, a commercial fisherman on the neighboring Hama Island, told me that Ndawula got lost from his family for six years and was discovered by fishermen in 1992, during his morning sun bathing routines on top of the rocks.
“The answer to how that man got there is not what anybody should deceive you that he knows better than his gods,” several fishermen on the lake told me. Surely, Ndawula himself does not know what happened to him and how he got to this Island. What he remembers is that he fell asleep some time back and during what he called a dream, he saw a man who tempted him to try a smoking pipe and from there he found himself in a caves of this island.
He also told me that later, his people told him that during that night in 1986, he made a lot of noise and disappeared through the roof and was lost since then. But after the rituals were done on him after 1992, he started performing the duties of a traditional healer from this island. I never bothered him much on this topic, owing to the fact that I was worried of the great and amazing stories of this place, and by the fact that throughout our discussion and the tour he never blinked an eye or tried to force a smile. He was steady and still like a statue.
When I asked him how he feels at night on this lonely island, this is what he told me: “I am not alone and I have enough company of all the kinds that you have.” He also told me that every time he tours this island, he gets new and great discoveries and sometimes he lands on ancient tools and implements that were once used by his ancestors: “I enjoy my kingdom,” he told me.
Golofa, a name that is derived from this great island’s rocks, which have piled themselves like a strayed building, has several apartments and caves that will continue to remain in my memory for some time.
Ndawula’s humble rock fortress. It is a bare rock that talks for itself as a good habitat for humanity and tourism, but again leaves a many question unanswered about the reason why it was abandoned and spared for one man. This rock that is surrounded by calm, dark blue waters and neighbors the busiest fishing island, Dolwe, as well as the islands of controversy on the border with Kenya, has over 20 beautiful apartments inside it on different floors.
Some of them are self-contained, while others are furnished with stone-molded furniture fashioned as seats, beds and dinning tables. Just at the entrance of one end of the rock is a large space covered with a stone. This can serve as a conference hall. It is also well ventilated and has similar provision inside. Deep inside the floors is what Ndawula refers to as a master bedroom. It is very large, spacious room with running water from some corner and deep but narrow ditch he uses as a toilet, with a burning bonfire in the centre of the chamber.
I tried to find out where the water flows from, but I failed to get the answer: “You can spend a day and even a week here with everything provided,” I am told.
At sunset, he told me to leave him and his island, saying that nobody is supposed to sleep on this island and the neighboring Shamulala Island, which he said was his grazing area. The reason why he advised me to leave was for the safety of my life. Talking about Ndawula and his island is a long tale of wonders, but this is what I am able to tell you for now and I beseech the lovers of tourism to open up their diaries and set time to visit there. There is more than enough to discover inside the greatest fresh water lake in Africa.