The inspiration for this poem (below) came from some scribbled notes I had written some time back about a camping trip in the Magkarikari Pans in North West Botswana, near the game filled sand banks of the Nata River, where I had come across a gathering of San bushmen and their children. Instead of the traditional hunting spears, they were carrying wicker baskets with fruits and roots, and Ostrich Egg halves to scoop water.
I asked them why they no longer hunted game and travelled without spears, and laughingly they told me in their ‘click’ tongue, through an interpreter, that the spirits of their Gods lived in the Game and creatures they were hunting and the insects they caught. This troubled the group greatly and they had asked the sun what to do about this. I thought then I would write a poem for the OM Times poetry group about the mythology at play that I found on that trip. Glossary of African terms used is at the end of the poem …
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San of the Sun
San of the Kalahari rose before dawn, and scaled the high leopard Kop
Discarding Beetle poisoned spear, turning to the East, reaching the lofty top
The glow of the Sun at horizon’s tip threw long shadows on morning’s veldt
Shading eyes from the fires of the Sun with the rag of a dassie’s pelt
The San Sun rises from Crocodile, and voices wisdom at early morn…
…To be swallowed at night, until new day’s dawn
“Sabona, I greet you and what seeks you today?” – the voice of the burning Sun
“Sabona, I greet you, seeking redemption and truth,” – the voice of bushman San.
“Witness shadows flee as I rise in fire, and truth there you will find
Hurry to the plains and speak loudly of redemption to your fellow-kind”
San bowed low to the sun and sped to the plains to tell of redemption he found
First to be spotted was Kudu Bull, a spirit long worshipped, pawing the ground
“Sabona, I greet you San, but I fear the harsh spear of past day”
“Fear not” said San “I hunt no more, the sun has shown me the way”
Hovering ‘Go Away Bird’ sung “where is your sling shot today”
“Fear not pretty Bird, I shoot you not, for I have found a new way”
Short Warthog paused in trot to morning water; “is it peace at last”
“Yes, my friend, I laid down my spear to the Sun and atoned for deeds of the past”
Kudu Bull, Bird and short Warthog followed, the spell firmly cast
Wild Berries and nuts, he gathered; tubers and bush onions, and forest’s ripest fruits
And for his medicine he gathered herbs and roots
From Marula tree he fermented fine wine
And never again did he cross that line
Of harming fellow creatures of the high Mopane plains
For San had become a Gatherer of gifts; drenched by African rains
Sabona – An African greeting. (Short for Salebonane)
Kop – (or Kopje) a hill or mound in Africa
Dassie – Bush squirrel.
Veldt – African grasslands, mainly southern Africa.
San – The bushmen of the Kalahari (the Khoisan Group)
Kudu – An African Antelope. A God in San mythology.
Go Away Bird – a bird of Prey called such as its call sound like “Go Awaaaayy” !!
Warthog – African wild pig with dangerous tusks.
Marula Tree – Indigenous to southern and central Arica, the fermented fruit is high in alcohol content…
Mopane Bush – African savannah