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02 June 2023 – It is morning. Sleep was minimal as bodies needs time to adjust and acclimatise to new surroundings. Somewhere in the night I heard the land and the mountains surrounding us sing.

Just after 07:00 I barely contain my excitement to view this world in the light of day. As I open the curtains, a clear day greets me and roommate Dixon. Through the south facing window we can see the road leading to Springbok and Steinkopf. It is the mountain, with boulders taking on a variety of shapes, granite slopes dotted with quiver trees, aloes and various shrubs that take our breath away.

A few minutes later I’m out the door, ready to explore the hiking trail situated on Jakkalswater. As I look up to the gentle granite slopes, the sight of massive rock pieces in circular form peeks my interest and it is here that I want to greet the sun. I pick up on movement in the cottages occupied by my fellow spores, but choose the silence of nature to start the process of understanding this land. I follow a pathway through shrubs, and the first plant that shyly greets me is the Ballota Africana (Cape Horehound, Kattekruie), peeking from behind a Galenia bush. As I ascend the granite slope, my attention is diverted from the stone circles to a rock throne. Manmade,and yet what an amazing seat for a quick morning meditation. The chair faces East, in an instant I plop down as the sun starts to greet the world. A feeling of profound gratitude comes and sits on my chest and the only way I manage to free it, is through tears. Whilst sun gazing through wet eyes, the sound of the bowstring completes my connection with this earth of the North. On a rock above, Q, completes his connection to this land which he knows so well, with a meditative vibrational tune.

I notice how everyone here is heeding the call of their surroundings. Inyanga healer Mkhulu Mahlaba (Mary Kekana), and I start to converse. Mary went to visit the waters on the land earlier. She brings news from the ancestors. “What gifts have you brought with”?, “Where is the wine”? They ask. I chuckle as I tell her that I’ve asked project co-collaborator, Sonya Rademeyer to bring some wine with, minutes before Mary arrived from the river. I finally have the courage to ask powerful presence Mary about the burping noises that erupts from her occasionally. In the world of the Inyanga, the ancestors, and spirits connects with the vessel to bring through messages. Mary is that vessel. When these messages come through, this is when a burp is emitted. Mary is a frank speaker, she is strong willed and shares with me that she embodies more of the Sacred Masculine energy. This is when the visitation of male ancestors is much more prevalent than those of the females. It is in these conversations exploring the diversity of the African Traditional system, that I start to feel lost. It is Mary who brings me back to the middle when she tells me, that people who have been called to work in the spiritual world, whether it is with plants, or ancestors, all have a duty towards the soil first. Healthy soil produces humans with healthy bodies, minds and spirits. As she walks away, I cannot help but feel a twinge of sadness, for the spiritual world is a harsh environment, it takes a human with an iron soul to endure. African Traditional Medicine and all of its side branches is a complex system, one which also calls to take into consideration race, tribe, bloodlines…

Mkhulu Mahlaba (Mary Kekana)

(photo by Mymalaika_Photography)

Just before lunch, the Nama Stapdancers and their teacher Dina Christiaans arrives. What a treat. Dina explains that the Nama Stap is different from the Rieldans, which I’m used to in the Western Cape. The Nama stap is slower, whereas the Riel is fast. Both these dances are part of the Khoi, Nama and San groups. The movement of feet and how the dancer moves his whole body mimics that of a specific animal. Every animal that is mimicked through the dance has a very specific meaning in terms of what is being portrayed i.e the use of ostrich movements portrays the mating ritual. These specific steps, is also done at specific functions like births, and weddings. Dina Christiaans is a woman of note in these areas. She not only teaches her community children the true Nama Language, oh no, this 55 year old is busy writing a children story book in her Nama language. She is a presenter and newsreader at Radio Namakwaland. “I don’t just speak my language, I also dance my language”, Dina says, whilst her group of dancers fits on artistic creations made by Sonya that will portray how the mycelium network also moves through cultural dance.

Today was overwhelmed with an enormous amount of activities and energy. The weather is cooling down rapidly. Plates of delicious meat and veggies refuels. Q has started a much needed fire. A few of us brave the wind that slices tonight. The lunar halo promises rain and cold. The bowstring is pulled out. Our sounds are eaten by the cold night.

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