Southward bound, to the home of Mupo

January 17, 2011 at 10:56 pm (africa, Uncategorized)

I am off out to Africa again! After Ghana last year, and calling it ‘Ruth’s Ghana Blog’ I thought that it was a bit restrictive for what I am doing next… which is going to South Africa. SO here it is: my new blog: Ruth’s African Blog!

So inspiring and original, I had to declare its all-encompassing new status. Brilliant. Now I can go where I want!

Makhadzi women - Will Baxters photo

This time I am going to the north east of the North Eastern province of South Africa; the Limpopo province. I will be working with the Mupo Foundation, and predominantly supporting the Makhadzi women of the Venda people, to protect the existence of their sacred sites.  I’ll do this by interviewing people in the community and getting an understanding of how the threats to their sacred sites are effecting their lives, as well as getting to grips with the clan’s customary laws and taboos.  I will also take photographs, do paperwork, and give training to the women so they can do their own documentation of the events that are happening around them. This will help the communities to legally register their sites so they can be recognised in the South African court of law. The threats they are facing include the building of a giant hotel complex in their sacred forest, generally disrespectful tourism, mining, and illegal christian burials.

The Mupo Foundation works with the communities to build their capacity to protect traditional lands/territories and community rights. The local organisation, based in Thohoyundou, supports the clans in the area as they are threatened by post-colonial land and development policies that are ecologically destructive and culturally discriminatory. By raising awareness of the issues the communities are dealing with, other communities facing similar challenges may be mobilised into action to protect their own sacred lands. Part of my task is to raise awareness in a way that doesn’t reveal the secrets of the clan or trample on the customary taboos.

Mupo means original Creation, or living Earth, it encompasses all living beings not made by humans, including the moon, the stars and the air. The sacred sites around this region are critical to the survival, culture and well-being of the clan, and are places where the spirits of the ancestors of the Venda people, and Mupo, can be felt most strongly. Any violation to the sites or any disrespect to their customary laws regarding the sites causes great distress among the community, for fear of angering the ancestral spirits and disturbing the natural balance. Because the sites have been protected and held sacred in this way for thousands and thousands of years, the areas have thrived and become incredibly rich in biodiversity; which is incredibly important from an environmental perspective, and is even more of an incentive to enable the clan to continue to protect the sites from outside threats.

I will be leaving in a few weeks or so, and staying for 3 or 4 months.. and travelling a bit afterwards. A bone reading done for my trip revealed that it will change me in some way. So see you on the other side!

The Makhadzi women are the designated custodians of the sacred sites, a role given to them by the ancestors.

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