ONTAMETSE SUGAR had a thrill-by-minute Kuru excursion at the weekend and it is something she will do again.
Going to the Kalahari for the Kuru festival was one of the brave decisions to make because I was scared of whether I would manage. We then left on Friday morning at around nine o'clock, it was exciting and nerve wrecking at the same time. When I passed Jwaneng I just realised that the long journey had just begun. Passing Sekoma and seeing the Tsabong turn off, I realised that I am in for it. When we got to Kang we stopped by, and it was very evident that I am indeed in another part of the country that I am not used to. But above all there was so much warmth in the way the people were responding to us. When I got to Kang, I actually thought we were very close to where we were going, but I was shocked that Gantsi was about 200km away. Even though I was already tired, the beauty of the Hanahai Valley along the Trans Kalahari road caught my attention. The attractiveness of the valley is just something I never knew existed in Botswana. The valley seems like a wide vast of land that is said to connect to the Tropic of Capricorn.
When we eventually reached Gantsi, we had to wait for someone to lead us to Qae Qare San Lodge, where the festival was held. It was quite challenging to get there since now we were in a one way gravel road in the bush. We struggled with the white sand until we finally arrived at Qae Qare. It is just in the middle of the bush. When trying to get out of the car, the feet just got deep into the sand. On arrival we were led to the healing dances by the San Groups which were Bere, Xere, Kurupekumane and Kuraboo-Qabo. These dances are spiritual, done by the San to communicate with their ancestors. We retreated to our camp once the dances were completed; about 15km away from the Qae Qare. Because of the sand the van that we were using couldn’t go through, so we had to use the safari land rover. The next day was even more exciting – Basarwa and Bakgalagadi were warm and gratifying to spend a day with.
After the official opening it was now time for entertainment songs by the San groups. The groups that performed were New Kanagas, Kgama from Grootlagte, Cuisekurusa from Kuke, Kurepekumane from Etsha 6, Xere from Rakops, Xaaxaa from New Xade, Gokhwe Ngwao from Mababe, Tsumkwe from Namibia, Kuranaboo from Qabo, Mahunane from Xaxa, Gemsbok from D'kar and Bere. One thing that was quite similar with all these groups was the fact that the way that they danced was in very slow rhythms while they just move their fit a little bit. One of the founders of the event Arone Johannes even told the public that they should understand that even though the dance might be slow and not too entertaining to them, they should understand that after all it is for the San to celebrate their culture and show what they are capable of without being judged in a competition on how they perform or whether they can perform better than the other ones.
The dancers, who mostly consisted of older people who were in their 50s, 60s and even 70s, embraced their culture as they gracefully danced in leather wear that revealed most of their body parts. Older people dominated the dances, but there were a few young ones who were dancing. The incredible part about it was that some of them were coming from the local universities around the country. One of the young people that participated was Phillip Mugoo. “These are my people, it does not matter that I am in university, they will always play a very imperative role in my life and I am not ashamed of my roots,” the dreadlocked guy said. Other groups that were not of the San also took part in order to support the San and among them were Mabutswapele from Gaborone, which also comprises of few from the Kgalagadi region and Ditlhaka from Tlokweng. It was a long draining day, but very interesting. After that they just stayed in their camps around fire. When we approached one of the camps and asked what they were doing, it was said they were just having tea; something that the young ones are not allowed to have at night.
The next day – a Sunday – the previous day’s performers looked very different in their normal clothes. Someone wouldn't even realise that they were the ones that were clad in leather outfits that showed their bums and breasts. This just showed how much the San have adopted change by allowing their kids to go to school, eating exotic foods, but still not forgetting their roots and constantly embracing their culture.