Storage: that’s the key to survival in any remote area. Africa has lots of them – remote areas as well as strange ways of storing, preserving and transporting essential items.
Come see our village, the man at the camp said. We are a prosperous family, living not far from here. So I went and I asked the old Himba woman permission to see her house. It is not mine, she said, but you are welcome.
The hut contained a young mother and her baby. No, this photo wasn’t photoshopped. The red colour is real. I looked around after greeting her and receiving a shy smile in return. See, she said, this is my house, my life. Look at all the things I have. I am a blessed woman, she said, holding the baby out to me.
Then she proudly showed me her container with the aromatic herbs. Picking up a glowing ember with her fingers, she dropped in into the herbs so I may smell the scent of the veld, the aroma of Africa…
And look, she said, I have a pail, a calabash and a funnel.
I looked. And I saw the funnel was made of wood and s strange bit of copper or brass. What is that? I asked.
The old woman heard the question and laughed. It used to contain a bullet, back in the days of the war, she murmured. Now it pours the goat’s milk from the pail to the calabash
I marvelled at that. These women have so little…and yet so much. The spent cartridge a soldier had thrown away, now served as an important component to the primitive funnel.
Oh, let me rephrase that… The word ‘primitive’ doesn’t belong here. Not in this society where the scrap of wartime now helps them survive. Maybe we should learn from them. We, in our large houses and with our many possessions and running water and electricity – we keep on making guns and shooting down aeroplanes. We are hamsters on silly little wheels, constantly wanting more. How primitive is that?
I walked out in the sunshine, past the kraal filled with goats and the little ‘hut’ for the chicken swinging gently in the breeze. It contains the eggs, keeping them away from vermin.
My visit left me wondering whether the minds of these people contained more wisdom than I originally gave them credit for. Are we really sure that our way of life contains everything to make us as happy as they are?
Or should we admit that they have more reason to smile than we do? Shouldn’t we discard the trappings of luxury and sit in the sun more often while we contemplate the joys contained in a simpler life?