It was a crisp winter sunrise followed by a sensational morning out in the wild, and I was privileged enough to spend this morning with the Ravenscourt female leopard and cub at Singita Game Reserve. Having said that the highlight of my day was still to come as we had planned to explore the adjacent local village (called Justica) for the afternoon. Being the last Sunday of the month the village was exploding with life. The scent of fire consuming the skies, and the smiles of the locals were infectious as the children played on the streets. The distant drumming, the call of the roosters and the abundance of colour will always stay with me.
Continuing along the way we came across two sisters who were returning from church and some boisterous youths who were practicing the ‘gumboot’ dance (a traditional dance originating from the gold mines). We were then privileged enough to be entranced by the voices of the youth choir as they sang in the shade of a marula tree, getting us involved with a dance or three. It was time to drive again as the fiery winter sun started to set and the local ‘shabeen’ or bottle store was gathering a crowd: we were in for a final treat! It was the annual graduation ceremony for the new Sangomas (a term used for traditional healers) and we were about to be part of it.
Walking in amongst the rounded huts to be greeted by a encore of drums and an elderly lady know as ‘kokwane’ yodeling at the surprise of some ‘umlungus’ (white people) joining this very sacred ceremony.
I did not feel unwelcome, but rather different, as I removed my shoes and humbly kneeled on the handcrafted mats.
The incredible head-dresses consumed my attention as the leader started to thank us and the other visitors for joining such an occasion. This event was by no means a time to get a treatment for what ever may have been on my mind but rather, a time to reflect at the beauty of the culture and show respect to the ancestors. He spoke softly in the local language Shangaan and threw the bones; all the new graduates looked over in anticipation, as their future was right there lying on the mat. When we left the hut the crowds of younger and older generations chanted and drummed, with meat on the fire and beers all round, the evening was a real gem and I am sure the celebrations continued late into the evening. This day had been enlightening to me as I learned about, experienced and embraced a culture on a totally different level, something that will stay with me forever.