SPIRITS OF AFRICA

THE SAN : mankind's oldest form of spirituality

this film can be viewed on our youtube channel

  The San are the oldest people on earth. This has been proven by DNA analysis. They have lived as hunter gatherers in southern Africa for at least 100.000 years, but probably longer. They left traces in the form of rock and cave paintings all over the south of the continent. Most of these rock paintings depict hunting scenes and religious ceremonies featuring animals and people. With the arrival of other people (Bantu groups from the north and Europeans from the south) the San were forced out of their ancestrals lands. They were killed or enslaved by the new arrivals (who called them Bushmen) and retreated into the Kalahari and Namib deserts.

 

Tsitano Maburunyara

 

The last of the San (numbering between 50 and 100 thousand) are trying to survive in this inhospitable environment but their numbers are still decreasing and they are desperately poor. The governments of Namibia and Botswana, where most of them live, do very little to help them and in some cases even persecute them.We went to an isolated community in northern Botswana where we met Tsitano, a traditional healer in his late forties. He told us about his youth, when he still lived as a hunter gatherer with his family group. He related how he became a healer, after a white shape appeared in a dream and told him he had the gift (and therefore the obligation) to heal people.

 

Tsitano during the healing dance

  From then on he began to practice the healing dance. During the dance, he told us, he goes into trance. He then leaves his body and travels to a level where he meets with his ancestors, who give him power, and specifically with his 'power animal', in his case the dove (pigeon), which empowers him. He then returns to his body, which is still dancing around the fire, and channels the power to the people around the fire by touching their shoulders and channeling the power into them. I was one of the people he 'powered up' during the ceremony we filmed and I certainly felt a stream of energy entering me.

 

San cave painting I saw at Tsodilo holy hills

 

In our short film, he tells about all this and in the second part we show how he (and a collleague healer) practice the healing dance and heal people. The singing and clapping are very important, they are monotonous and bring on a trancelike state after a few hours. This ceremony lasted all night, Tsitano and the others dance and sang until just before dawn. It was one of the most authentic end impressive ceremonies I have ever witnessed, especially when you realise that this is the oldest people on earth and therefore you are, so to speak, in the presence of mankind's oldest form of spirituality.

 

old time San ceremony

 

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