Dispatch No.4 - Trance Dances in the sand

2009-05-22 00:00

After an early morning hike following the Bushman’s River high into the Drakensberg foothills of the Giants Castle uKhalamba World Heritage Site, we stand at the open entrance to the massive cave. It’s a museum display from the old Natal Parks Board days, a life like family scene of a group of San hunter gatherers.

Close to the mock fire seeking warmth lies an old woman, alongside her a young mother with a baby and another preparing food. Using a paint brush made from a bone splint and a feather, and paint from natural ochres blood and squashed barks and berries, a man paints a hunting scene on the cave wall. Walking into the scene is the figure of a returning hunter dressed in a small antelope loin skin with a bow hanging from his shoulder.

In years gone by, barefoot in the dust, they would have trance danced after a successful hunt, Eland were favoured for the fat which they used to soften their skin karosses. And then as a tribute to the wild animals the rock painting would begin.

Roger Porter of Ezemvelo KZN wildlife tells us that there are 35 to 40 000 of these San paintings still in existence, an enduring gallery of detailed rock art.

Set into the exhibit are bits of bone, bottle tops and even spent cartridges. Some of the rock art in the next cave is pock marked with bullet holes from the days when the San people were hunted and shot down as cattle rustlers. It was the “genocide of an ancient people”, says Roger Porter.

Near the Langalibalele pass we find the number 75 carved into a huge rock. It marks the place where Lieutenant Colonel A. W. Durnford encamped with the 75th Regiment in 1854. They had come here to close the pass into Lesotho and to subjugate King Langalibalele I, who was eventually arrested and banished to Robben Island, I guess he was one of South Africa’s first political prisoners.

As a lead up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup, a team of adventurers from 4x4 Mega World have traveled ahead of the expedition to put in goal posts, nets, white lines, supply whistles, ball and bibs. The expedition arrives to present the winning team with a floating trophy and a ‘Man of the Match’ award. It’s a rural soccer world cup for conservation. We are doing what we came to do, linking communities to Transfrontier Conservation across Africa. It’s all part of a Boundless Southern Africa Expedition Community Event, supported by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, King Langalibalele II and the amaHlubi present, a beast is slaughtered, black clay beer pots are filled, we’ve judged a conservation themed art competition at the local school, handed over mobile libraries and provided lap top desks to scholars.

Its day three of our 120 day journey across the continent from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, linking 9 Countries, 7 Transfrontier Conservation Areas, 30 National Parks and Reserves and the Communities adjacent to these areas. Its all about Nature, Culture and Community. – We’ll keep you posted.

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