Today’s pop culture is in the modern lingo LIT, there is a word that unites black people all the way from the Americas to Africa, a black person who does not know what the word WOKE means is not an African patriot. Blackness on its own is now akin to magic, having more melanin on one’s skin and having kinky coily hair is in vogue. Black people are calling each other out for being sleep walkers in worlds that the west created for them. Being woke means that not only are you a Pan- African but you are on the path to unearth yourself, to look for the authentic self, for that place called home. There was a time when we were so ashamed of blackness, when all we saw of black African culture was savagery and crudeness. We had acknowledged the pillaging and the raping of Africa during the scramble for the continent by the white powers, we had not realized or acknowledged the destruction and the looting of our very essence, our spirit, our gods, our art and of our very selves. In the new world of wokeness Abrahamism is not enough; the new Africans in their woke state are quickly rejecting the God of the conquerors in the search for their own. Because black is power they demand that their Gods should also be black.
But where do the African Gods reside?
My existential crisis came in the form of an innocent conversation with a friend who expressed to me just how much she dislikes Botswana as a country; she said that it is a dry hell of a hot desert where people’s only artistic expression is stomping on the hard ground with their feet and having the audacity to call it dancing. I said nothing, I had not realized at the time that I had agreed completely with her statement out of shame; shame for my culture, my believes, myself; in short my blackness. In the woke world of black magic one cannot be ashamed of their blackness and still claim to be authentic. So my shame brought me here to the contemplation of my existence and the realization that “blackness” is more than just the color of the individual’s skin, it is the whole life experience of a person; their culture, language, food, art and of course spirituality.
My salvation came in the form of the Kuru Dance festival. It is here (at the Kuru Dance Festival) that I start my search for the meaning of things; the meaning of the movements, the rhythm, the dance itself. Although our history is not documented in writing nothing has been wasted, we look for the clues of our murdered Gods in all that we do, in our language, food, dance and in the act of worshipful living. The Batswana still dance but they have forgotten why they dance in the first place, they still remember the rhythms but the rhythms mean nothing because the rhythms cannot walk alone. Then I remembered the first people of our land, those who still walk so closely to their truth the Basarwa (San), their dance is very similar to ours and they still remember why they dance. They still remember that you have to lose yourself to commune with your spirit, they remember that in the thumbing of the ground with their feet, they are awakening the spirit of the god of the west and the east. Their rhythms are meditation, prayer, healing and the honoring of the cycle of life. They in the words of Ira Lowenthal are saying with their dance; “No, I’m not a cow. Cows cannot dance, cows do not sing. Cows cannot become God. Not only am I a human being ― I’m considerably more human than you. Watch me create divinity in this world you have given me that is so ugly and so hard. Watch me become God in front of your eyes” and I want so much to become God.
On the 4th of August during the full moon we shall gather with the saints at the Dqae Qare Game Farm in Ghanzi to meet the Gods of our land in the dance of transcendence. Xukuri Xukuri of the San Museum & Culture Center says that the Full moon is significant in the culture of the San because they believe that during this period they are able to heal the sick through the power they receive from song and dance. He says that a real healing ceremony is held at night; that mythical part of the day when the universe vibrates with sacred energy. Trance healing rituals are performed by San healers to intercede with all of creation; to heal the community, to request for good weather and successful hunting trips or to foretell future events. Trance dances have been practiced for centuries by many ancient cultures throughout the world.
Can we own the San Gods and claim them as our own? Having worshiped imported Gods all my life I welcome the chance to collect Native Gods, Gods who originate and are present in this place, in this semi-desert I call my country. It is all in the soil my mother had said, children of the soil need to worship the Gods of their own land and this is as good a place as any to start.
If Nietzsche can blame Europe for failing to create their own God despite their great civilization, I think Africans should be blamed for murdering their own Gods, out of shame and out of their misplaced ambition for civilized things. It was in Ghanzi in the 90s where the murder of my Gods began, I remembered how thoroughly I rejected traditional dance when it was offered to us at Ghanzi Primary School during PE (Physical Education) hour as an alternative; I forgive myself, I was a rural kid with too much ambition. I am grateful that my search for Native Gods will bring me here, back to the place where I first rejected the dance of my people.
The Kuru Dance Festival which started in 1997 as a culture day for the San people to show case their talents and creativity in traditional songs and dance offers more than just trance healing dances. People attend the Kuru dance festival for many reasons; some come for the playful and seductive courtship dances, some to learn more about the rites of passage dances while others show up for the dances that tell the story of a successful hunt and pay reverent respect to Mother Nature. While everyone comes to the festival for different reasons, we all go to Kuru to learn from, connect, share and celebrate with the first people of the Kalahari.
Feel free to join us on this pilgrimage as we follow the full moon in search of native Gods.
Learn more about the Festival and find the full festival program here.
Onwards to Uhuru, Love and Light,