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a story is like the wind

joanna eede (a cura)

A story is like the wind, it comes floating from a far-off place.
We are San Bushmen, the sons and daughters of the first people I, Nqate, live in the Kalahari. I know all the waterholes and pans round here, all the places where the animals come. When it is the rainy time, the animals come close again and fruits grow. If it rained more often, this Kalahari would always hold plenty of food. But sometimes a year will pass with no rain at all.
I am a hunter. I hunt with my friends, Xlhoase the bow hunter, and Karoha the runner, who will even risk death in the most difficult of all hunts, the hunt by running.
We know tracking. This is what we are born to do. We talk silently with our hands. And we read the animals’ stories.
Today we must be off hunting. That is what we do, that is who we are. Our names have come on the wind to you, but you don’t know our stories. My name, Nqate, means ‘always walking’, Karoha – ‘always running’.
We are always looking, always checking for signs, showing each other tracks. Like here, a pair of porcupine has been feeding recently. We walk for hours along the footpath of tracks. To make no sound, we use the language of hands to show each other the tracks – to say how fresh they are – how fast they are moving – the size of the animal – is it male or female? – how strongly is it moving? – will it be the one?
Tracking is like dancing because your body is happy; it is telling you that the hunting will be good. Only on a very hot day can we hunt by running. We try to chase the animal to its death. We can run down eland, we can run down kudu, we can run down gemsbok.
Even if we see a springbok, we go after that one. Many times the animal is too fast and we must leave it. That one wasn’t meant for us to take, but sometimes our God, Bihisabolo, says, ‘I will set one aside for you.’ And we wait to feel in our bodies when we will be lucky.
Once we were always near animals. Now we must walk far to find them. We see where a cheetah passed. We put on the cheetah’s mind. He is hunting. If we follow him, he will lead us to his kill.
A jackal passed here. The fat tail of a female scorpion shows us the trail is old. For we know the scorpion moves by midnight and her trail lies over the front paw mark of the jackal.
When you track an animal you must become the animal. You feel a tingling in your armpits when the animal is close. Then you know the hunt will be good. You learn the ways of birds that come on the wind. They whisper to you the rain is coming. These are the things we know. Tracking is like dancing. This is the great dance. Then the springbok heart beats in your ribs. You see through its eyes. You feel its stripe, dark on your cheek. Tracking is like dancing, because your body is happy. It tells you hunting will be good. You feel it in the dance. When you do this you are talking with God.

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Anno 9, Numero 37
September 2012

 

 

 

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