Thursday, June 14, 2012

April 20, 2012: Trance Dance, Gathering Honey and Rock Art

Greetings All,
After leaving Khulula Wild Care we went to Botswana to do a cultural and wildlife safari from Mar. 18th through April 2nd.  Here is a map showing our safari route.

Kalahari San Tribe Expedition route-map

While in Botswana we've had no access to the internet so I have a lot of catching up to do. The first stop on our safari was the village of Xai Xai in the Northwest corner of Botswana to visit the Bushman. The San as the Bushman are called are culturally hunters and gathers. They are of short stature with tiny delicate features. They wore clothes made of the hides of antelope most likely Springbok. They were decorated with beads. Both the men and woman wore beaded headbands and necklaces (Photo 1).

To break the ice, Adam our trip leader brought tobacco. The San love to smoke. Both men and women partake. They had pipes and some used a pipe made of bullet shells (Photo 2).

After dinner we went back to the bushman camp to watch a trance dance. When we arrived, they were already dancing. The men were singing and dancing around a fire. The women were sitting, clapping and singing. The dance was more a shuffle around the fire with the men pounding the ground with their feet and a stick. They wore rattles made of dried cocoons with seeds placed inside them around their ankles. They would dance until one of the men would fall into a trance. They would fall to the ground and appeared to be sleeping but apparently were communing with their ancestors (Photo 3).

At one point, the Shaman approached each one of us and placed his hands on our shoulders and chanted. I was later told by Kava our interpreter that his was removing any bad or negative influences from us.

This morning we were to go back to the site of a beehive found yesterday. On yesterday's walk, about a half mile from camp, the San heard a Honeyguide calling. A Honeyguide is a bird which supposedly will lead you to a beehive. Three of the San men followed the Honeyguide and located the tree with the beehive. The elder did not have to throw sticks this morning since the San knew where to go. We made our way through the thicket to the Marula tree with the hive. There was a circular hole where supposedly the bees were and a vertical slit that supposedly contained water. The San started a fire in the traditional way to smoke the bees out. They then proceed to chop the entire tree down to get at the hive. They used an axe supplied by Adam, not exactly traditional. They took turns hacking at the tree. Kava took the first blows since the San felt that the bees would not get upset with him. The tree eventually fell but still no hive. The San now hacked at the center of the downed main limb to get at it. They took to using a machete which Adam also supplied. Finally, success, they began ripping out pieces of honeycomb. The bees appeared and Kava said they would not sting you unless you disturb them. I think smoking them out and cutting down their tree constitutes harassment. Kava ended up getting stung in the head. As the pieces of honeycomb were ripped out it became apparent that there was no honey (Photo 4). The nest must have been an old one that the bees had recently returned to. All that work and destruction for nothing.

After visiting the San we went to the Tsodilo Hills to look for rock Art. Over 4500 images have been painted at 400 sites. The red paintings are believed to have been painted by the Ncaekhoe People and the white paintings by the Bantu people. All are finger paintings. The paint was probably made from hematite, charcoal and calcrete mixed with animal fat, blood, marrow, egg white, sap, urine and even semen. The painting depict wild animals, human figures and geometric designs. My favorites were the Rhino Panel and the Van Der Post Panel (Photos 5&6).

That's it for now. I send another update soon.
We hope everyone had a Happy Easter!
Peggy and Marc

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