Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday October 2, 2009

Full rains today, and last night. Our first ‘official’ shoot today, and shoot we do, rain or shine.

This morning my run concluded with a new gift. Rounding the second corner, further from the lodge, I looked to my left and…

I met a giraffe. Wow. Just standing there, quite close; unafraid. It’s remarkable when you think how many things are burned into our consciousness from TV and film and photographs: we assume we know what a giraffe looks like. But until you see one in their natural habitat…

I mean there's always something slightly ridiculous about giraffes in photographs, right? The impossibly long neck, like a Darwinian prank of nature. But to see one in the flesh (fur?) This giraffe was graceful, like a dancer. She moved slowly, with purpose. And a little bit of curiosity. Incredible, but not ridiculous.

(now if you want ridiculous count on the Warthog - photo attached - needs no explanation really).

After my run-in with the giraffe I cursed myself for not having my camera; at least initially. Upon reflection I now think… Ah, well. No need to document every single ‘moment.

Another perk of this gig is that our sound and music guy just happens to be Bryan Potvin – otherwise known as lead guitarist for the band The Northern Pikes. So the cool factor just went through the roof on this show. For those of you who don’t remember the band, just know that not all music from the 80’s sucked.

Needless to say Bryan and I get along famously; talking music, of course, but many other things as well. It’s his first time in Africa too, and we share a similar perspective on the whole experience. He joined me on my run this morning, and we marveled at the giraffe in silent appreciation for a full five minutes.  

Either that or we just needed to rest.

Yesterday, while visiting the Zulu homesteads, Bryan took off his jacket to show them the impressive tattoo on his arm. Without skipping a beat the Zulu returned the favour – they showed us their ‘tattoos’ - small scars along their arms, abdomens and, occasionally, the face. 

Scarification is part of the ritual of becoming a man in Zulu culture – a rite of passage from boyhood to adulthood. Not to be confused with the so-called ‘mutilations’ one hears about in the media, these tiny incisions are delicate, artful; likely no more painful than a tetanus shot or a vaccination. And most young Zulu boys can’t wait for the day of their scarification. The day he becomes, in the eyes of his community and in the spirit of his ancestors, a man. 

And Western folks may criticize such practices, but here is where it helps to take a step back and look at the big picture. Many of our practices and customs would seem cruel and unusual when shot through the Zulu prism. Day care, for one. Tell the Zulu that we leave our children with strangers – non-family – for even a few hours and they would be horrified. I believe the term is cultural relativism.


                                                                                                              Here’s some great late-night reading: TRUE VIPERS. 

It sounds like an African crime novel – pulp fiction for the Safari – TRUE VIPER CRIMES! Turns out one of Anton’s employees, Johnny, is also a snake handler. I saw this book at breakfast and knew right away it would shoot to the top of my reading list. It’s a mistake to read it right before bed, however. As I discovered. I wasn’t surprised to read about the deadly Puff Adders – these snakes kill you almost instantly; blood comes out your eyes and other orifices; it’s truly awful – I was prepared for that.

But there are other snakes that kill you slowly. Very slowly. Isn’t that a comfort? Three months after the initial bite, which may hurt only as much as a bee sting, your liver starts to collapse. And then your kidneys. Now THERE’s a Darwinian prank all right.    

Last night we were invited to the ‘rehearsal’ for Saturday’s wedding.  I can say with confidence it was unlike any other wedding rehearsal I have witnessed. The dancing. The singing. The music.

The sacrificial slaughter of a cow.

I dared Bryan to ask the groom’s father how he planned to pay for the festivities. Bryan declined.

Although it was 2 hours late, and even though it was raining, none of that mattered as soon as the music started. I watched the entire wedding party enter one of the homesteads and begin to practice their moves, all set to music they created themselves. 

The joy in their faces and bodies, the rhythm; the music itself was ridiculously contagious. Impossible to keep yourself from clapping, tapping, swaying. It is no wonder that when Paul Simon traveled to this exact spot,   he heard something magical in the music that inspired his next creative streak. The result was ‘Graceland,’ an album featuring local musicians Ladysmith Black Mombazo. That was over 20 years ago. But just last night I heard the familiar beats and sounds of that album in the music being made by Kaya and his bride-to-be; and their extended family.

And that was just the rehearsal.

Tonight will no doubt be a treat. 

1 comment:

  1. If you can run into a Giraffe on your jog could you not run into a lion? Is jogging the smartest thing to do in Africa?