Monday, July 8, 2013

The Hills Have Eyes

Four Sacred Hills rise majestically out of the barren Kalahari sweeping plains displaying Africa's greatest rock art collection. While some may say it's a hindrance to get there, it only accentuates the sense of adventure for me.  The hills being a sacred place for the San people with rock paintings aged between 3 and 10 thousand years old.  The rock paintings themselves blew my mind away.  There was more detail than I expected, and the variety of figures was simply astounding.  There are lots of eland, giraffe, several rhino, pair of lions, a monkey standing on it's hind legs, humans, and even a penguin and a pair of whales complete with water spouts.  Apparently the bushmen used a mixture of blood and oils from the animals, and the holy Shaman would depict both animals and human as they entered into spiritual trances. Our San guide was born and raised on the hill and showed us his land, and of course with everything we saw he said, "there's a story."  It would have been easy to be with him for weeks to write a book on his stories of the art and the land.  We did 2 long hikes on separate trails of the female mountain, and with each turn there produced new surprises.  
The Bushmen believe that the gods made humankind at Tsodilo, and that the hills are a resting place for the spirits of the deceased and that their gods live in grottos within the Female Hill, from where they rule the world.  The most sacred place is near the top of the Male Hill.  Legend has it that the first spirit prayed after creating the world.  The San believe you can still see the impression of his knees in the rock.  It is also believed that these gods will cause misfortune and bad luck if anyone hunts or causes death near the hills. They point to the knee-like impressions on The Male – the most sacred of all places - where the First Spirit knelt and prayed after creating men and women. They believe that their ancestors and gods live in the caves and overhangs of The Female. Similarly, the Hambukushu believe that their tribe and its livestock were put on earth at Tsodilo by their god, Nwambe. They point to the hoof prints in rock on The Female in support of their belief.  The Tsodilo Hills have a special significance to the San people or Bushmen who have been living here for thousands of years. The Tsodilo Hills consist of four large pieces of rock, rising unexpectedly from the dry expanse of desert. The Bushmen referred to the bigger rock as the 'male', the smaller one was known as the 'female', and the smallest one was the 'child'. According to legends the fourth hill was the male hill's first wife, whom he left for a younger woman, and who now prowls in the background.

Above are three men dancing after their day of hunting.  The erect penis' displays the men's strength and courage.  Interestingly, before each hunt, they go to a sacred water hole that of course God made, and they pray to their ancestors and to God for a good hunt.  Some people think that these figure paintings represent a trance dance, which results in an altered state of consciousness in which, the Bushmen believe, the dancer can heal the sick and control the natural and supernatural.  The dancer can also communicate with ancestors.

Baobab against the hills

our San guide

The rich stunning colors on the rocks which they call copper bracelets

A perfectly formed rock shaped of the African continent that God put there.

Camping out under the stars with the hills looming in front of us was one of the most special experiences in my life.  It seems like every one of your senses can come alive in a place like this, but it saddened me that the government built a small museum and with that, the San are not allowed to live on the mountains anymore.  Why people want to remove the sacred is beyond me, but our guide told us a story, and his stories are passed down to his children, and they will pass it along to their children.

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