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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New bike and werewolves

April 26, 2010 at 10:11 pm (africa, Uncategorized)

Since my last post I have been doing much of the same thing, but each day something interesting has happened .. even if the something interesting was just buying a new variety of mango or getting slightly rained on. I am really enjoying the everyday things!

Major things that have happened since the last post are: I bought a bike!! and I love it. A friend from RAINS drove me to all the places that sell bikes, on his motorbike.. which was really fun! and we had to wait by the side of the road for the maintenance man to take my new bike all apart and put it back together again, when he had finished it had got dark and I rode the 40 minute bike ride back to my house with my friend escorting me on his motorbike haha. Good job though, I would have got lost for sure.  It was hard to balance as Ive never ridden a girls bike with curvy handlebars before!

Anyway, since I bought the bike I have been on 3 exploring trips.. the first one I noticed that Tamale isn’t completely flat, the second one tested my road bike on dirt/sandy roads and the 3rd one reminded me how much dust and wind a big truck makes as it passes you! It is great to have more freedom and to see a bit more of Tamale… and be able to travel to more food places than before on foot. 🙂

I finally went to see a football match in the big stadium yesterday, I only caught the second half, which was ok by me. Only about a quarter of the stadium was full which makes me wonder why it was built to be so big, but the crowd was still making loads of noise, especially the guy behind me who had a hilarious scream .. and drums were playing somewhere. Near the end of the match some people were getting really angry, and army men with guns were trying to stop them going on the pitch… but when the match had finished, loads of people stormed onto the pitch all angry about something really important to do with the referee apparently. So we left pretty quickly. It was fun! and I took lots of photos.

Had my first gin and tonic in Ghana, which was actually gin and soda water.. which is NOT the same thing I have found out! haha, I had this gin with a friend from work, and his friend who plays tennis, and we ate some barbequed goat, and barbequed gizard.. 🙂 gizard is kinda wierd.. felix was explaining that it is part of the chicken’s stomach which grinds up the food.. it was quite crunchy.

I have been dreaming whole crazy stories every night, which has been really interesting! Its like having a personal cinema but you never know what you will be watching or taking part in. I have been a german jew in world war 2, a werewolf, a regular person searching for an interview dress (not so interesting that one), and ive been eating very very big muffins.

Jessie has now left, but will be back at the end of May when we hope to go travelling to the east of the country if I can take some holiday from work. And next weekend I am going to Bolga! This is part of a deal in exchange for me providing my gift of the queen’s english on some website text. 🙂 Very excited to see more of Ghana.

Oh! and also had a meeting with someone who is setting up an environmental organisation here, and I am hoping to help him with editing also, and in exchange he will show me the work they are doing in the communities to do with tree planting and making organic compost, and will photograph and take notes. [As a footnote they are looking for some small funding if anyone knows of anyone or anywehere who likes to fund small local environmental ngos?]

Ti ni nye taba

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Update one

March 24, 2010 at 12:11 pm (africa, Uncategorized)


I’m not sure what to write…  I landed in Accra and was taken straight to a hotel, then on Saturday we met Mburu at the airport and had a meal. We left at 4:30am on Sunday to get to Tamale, in order to miss the traffic.. which worked! It is really dusty here at the moment, as the sands from the Sahara have been unusually blown into the north of the country. I am told it will be much hotter than this without the dust!

All along the way north there were people selling things by the road.. we bought a whole load of plantain to fill the back of the car.. and there were so many potholes that the driver was trying to miss at 130km/hr.

My house in Tamale is known as the Shilmintinga house (house of the white people), it is in the Jusanayili area, and we have chickens, a kitten and loads of wild lizards. At the moment I am living with two dutch girls and a Ghanaian footballer, who are really nice and helpful. There aren’t as many spiders as i was expecting, thank god.

Monday and Tuesday was spent on a workshop with RAINS, my task was to take photos, film and notes.. and I had to facilitate a session too, which was pretty scary for my first day. Monday was in Tamale, but Tuesday we went to Zosali village to meet a community. I remembered to do the correct greeting for a chief, luckily, haha. After we were given a seed of some sort to eat, we listened to the chief talk about farming and change, and then we listened to all the women farmers talk about crops and climate change and how machines and GM crop varieties have affected them. Then we had lunch, which felt odd as all the children were watching us.. I couldn’t manage mine (Jollof with goat) and it seemed to be ok to give it to them, so I gave it to a child who thought I looked really strange. We listened then to a spiritual leader in the village talk about climate change and sacrificing animals to the gods. After that the drummers started drumming and the women started dancing and the whole village joined in it seemed! I was too much of a coward to join in, but another girl from canada did and the women in the village thought it was really funny, haha.

So today I have started in the RAINS office, I should be doing work now, but Ghanaian time is way more relaxed… and I haven’t properly had internet yet. My ‘office’ is a big octagon shaped room with 5 wooden desks in .. and thats all!

I am enjoying the heat, especially with a cold shower in the morning! and the food, I really like the food so far.. especially fufu which you eat with your hands. Im finding it difficult to get used to all the attention in the streets though, and people wanting to know where I live etc.. I am looking forward to being confident here and knowing what to do with myself!

My god, 510 words, I better stop! Catch you later xx

Rabi from RAINS and a Zosali farmer

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Last day in the UK!

March 19, 2010 at 9:44 am (africa)

This is so indulgent.. I want to apologise for this blog before I get started, and I promise that I will write only the really really interesting things!

For example: … Im pretty nervous right now, last day in london, waiting to go for breakfast with Louise.. I really want a bacon butty.

Next update probably from Tamale! haha awesome


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First post

March 11, 2010 at 11:02 pm (africa, Uncategorized)

So, I’m off to Ghana in 7 days …!! I’m going to do some kind of documenting of my trip on here. I’ve never blogged before, but I figure that this way you can either read it or not read it! It won’t clutter anyones inbox etc..

Perhaps I will put down what I am expecting to be doing there: I’m going to spend a few months, perhaps 6, working alongside a local NGO called RAINS, in Tamale, who are a partner of the Gaia Foundation where I did an internship last year. I will be doing ‘communications’ work; making better links between RAINS and Gaia so that each benefit from the material I produce for fundraising and increasing awareness about the issues they are dealing with.

I will be getting to know the local communities, and the organisation, writing stories and taking photographs. As well as providing technological help if I can, in the RAINS office. I might also work with a local secondary school for girls.

I have been learning the language spoken in Northern Ghana; Dagbani over the past few months, and getting myself organised for being out there. So I’m almost ready! ….. oh my god!!

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