3643 views as at 28 June 2014
This collage groups together several images taken at a traditional San (Kalahari) Bushmen healing ceremony in a small tribal village near Ghanzi in Central Western Botswana.
With us on one side, the remainder of the circle was taken up a number of women and children of varying ages, from the elderly women with their heavily wrinkled, leathery baggy-skinned faces down to young mothers holding their babies in arms, while other young children also sat quietly by their mother’s sides.
The ceremony started when the two most elderly women (mid photo LHS) , seated side-by-side, started chanting and clapping and this was soon taken up by the others around the circle. Then, from the darkness outside the circle there appeared a couple of young men and girls in their mid to late teenage years, wearing lap-laps on their bodies and rattles made of moth’s pupa casings on their legs. For the next few hours, in time with the rhythmical chanting and clapping, these dancers shuffled around the outside of the circle, their shuffling forming deep furrows in the soft sand. It was impossible not to be drawn in by the hypnotic effect of the whole dance.
Meanwhile, in the darkness behind the circle of women, an older man, the ‘healer’ was working himself into a trance. Then finally, while still in his trance he got up and started shuffling around the circle and chanting to himself. However, because he seemed to have no awareness of his surroundings, he needed to be closely guided around the circle and between the fire and the women, to stop him stepping into the fire. Finally he stopped in front of the oldest woman, lay his hands on her shoulder and chest and for several minutes mumbled his healing words. Then he moved onto the next woman and then the next and finally around the whole three-quarter circle of villagers.
Then, to our surprise he came to each us and repeated his laying-on-of-hands. To have his hands touching me, his glassy-eyed wizened old face just centimetres in front of me and a deep guttural chant emanating from deep within his body, was both disconcerting and an amazingly powerful experience.
The one thing that most struck me about the whole ceremony was that it was unlike everything else I had ever seen in my life. This was not a performance put on for our benefit, to entertain us; it was an actual serious ceremony with its roots going back some 40,000 years in time to the beginnings of man in Africa. I found that thought to be incredibly moving.
Nikon D80. Nikon 70 -200mm VR lens. No filters
FEATURED IN AFRICAN BEAUTY
See also San Healing Ceremony