The heat in the village Ithemba was sweltering. A thick dry hazy fog hovered over the tiny village. Mpho and his friends lay under the shade of the Baobab tree in silence, even talking was too much effort and what would they say. It had been too long since the last rain. The fields that would normally be covered in mielies lay parched and barren. Food was very scarce. The river only trickled past and fishing had long since ceased.
The elders of the village met under the distant Acacia tree to discuss their plight. The chief spoke in a soft hoarse whisper. “My people” he said “our food supply will end in two days. The children are already crying, their empty bellies ache and their mothers, our wives are desperate. Some of our elderly have already perished; their frail little bodies could not withstand this drought for another day. They have gone to be with The Great Spirit and our ancestors. We must make one final plea to The Great Spirit of all things, before we all perish”.
“Go back to the village my people and prepare for the rain dance. Tonight when the first star shines brightly, we will gather in the village centre and we will pray and dance to The Great Spirit of all things. Go gather your families now and focus on rain all day long and thank The Great Spirit, Creator of all life for saving our people. Each person, from the youngest to the oldest will join in. Let this be so, now go”.
Slowly the elders trudged back to the village. Once there, their families came to greet them, hopeful that something would be done. Ithemba, was so named because it meant hope. The chief spoke somberly to the villagers. “Tonight we will sing, dance and pray to The Great Spirit, creator and father of all things. We will ask for compassion and life and we will spend all day meditating on rain”. In silence the villagers left one by one to go to their huts to prepare.
The day passed slowly and only a faint cry was heard from one or other baby during the day. Each family gathered in their own hut and sat huddled together in silence. They closed their eyes and saw their village surrounded by beautiful big mielies, the river flowing fast and filled with fish. The birds sang in the reeds, while the children played on the river banks. The woman laughed as they washed their clothes and the men hunted and fished.
As the day ended, the eve began. The first star twinkled and the moon hung low over the Acacia tree. The villagers came to meet in the centre of the village. Their day spent dreaming about their magical village, had given them renewed strength. A voice started to sing, first softly, like the song of the sweetest bird, one that brings an ache to your soul just listening to it. The others joined in and the song became louder and louder and more rhythmic. The drums started beating their loud echoing rhythm in time to the beat of mother earth’s pulse.
The children started to dance around the huge fire as it sent its flames high up into the night sky. Their hunger was all forgotten. The chief smiled at his villagers. These were people of spirit, of strength, his people and he loved them.
As the dancing became more vibrant, slowly the sky changed from dark to grey. The clouds rolled in over the village and beyond. When the first raindrop touched the cheek of a child, the villagers could not contain their tears of joy. A loud crack of thunder was followed by the lightning fireworks display. It was a moment in the making of history. The day ended, gulping greedily as the earth drank in the long overdue rain. When the villagers had soaked up enough rain, they jubilantly retired to bed.
On awaking, the smell of fresh rain greeted them. It was indeed as they had dreamt it would be. The river flowed once again and the birds had returned to sing in the reeds. The hunters found a lost buffalo that had come to quench its thirst at the river. They feasted that evening and filled their empty bellies to protrusion. When the first star twinkled in the sky, they bowed their heads in silent thanks to The Great Spirit, creator and giver of all life.