Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: RAIN (04/18/19)
- TITLE: Dandanda
By Corinne Smelker
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The valley spread out in front of her – lakes of water shimmered in the heat. No wait, that was a mirage, not real. This area had not seen rain in three years. She pulled out the hand-drawn map her uncle had given her, and looked for Kroonkop*, a hilly protrusion that according to the Shona people, was sacred. As she scanned the map she recalled Oom* Hendrik’s words. “Don’t tell your father about this. He doesn’t believe in this ‘black magic’, but as far as I am concerned, desperate times call for desperate measures.”
The Jeep slowly ground its way through the valley, and up Kroonkop. Tara was a little trepidatious. Would she really be welcomed to this Dandanda? This Shona rain ceremony? Oom Hendrik practically grew up amongst the tribe people, his Shona was better than his English, or his Afrikaans, which was ostensibly his first language. But Tara? She was just a farm girl who had spent 12 years at a boarding school in Nelspruit. She barely spoke Shona.
She stopped the vehicle halfway up the ridge as instructed, grabbed a hat, and with her characteristic long strides made her way to the top.
“It looks like God was playing ‘pick up sticks’ with these rocks and boulders, and just left them when He was done!” she thought as she surveyed the landscape.
She noticed movement out of the corner of her eye and turned her head. Literally popping out of the hill were dancers and musicians; dressed in their finery. She sat down quietly, as per her uncle’s instructions, and waited. She knew that there were tunnels leading from the base of the ridge to the peak, which is how the dancers appeared so suddenly.
As the dancers moved into position, one drummer started to beat out the main rhythm on his ngoma, the other drummers joining in with their ngomas until they were in harmony. The dancers, 29 in all, beat their bare feet in time to the drums and began to chant, as they slowly moved in a circle surrounding the drummers.
The mood was solemn and almost reverential. There was none of the levity here that Tara had seen at the tribal dances put on at tourist locations. These dancers meant business, the country needed rain and needed it now. Their very lives depended upon it, and they were calling on their rain god in much the same way as Tara’s pastor had called on her God.
The rhythmic beating of the drums, the constant beating of the feet and the motion of the dancers was hypnotic and Tara lost track of time as she was drawn into a world that was not her own, but one into which she was invited for a short time. As the dancers came to the end of their ritual, she jolted to full awareness. She had been so enrapt she hadn’t noticed the sun had dipped behind the hill and dusk was drawing near. As the dancers disappeared back down their tunnels, she wended her way down the hill to the waiting open-air Jeep, dust billowing under her boots as she went.
She climbed into the waiting vehicle, and jostled her way back to the main road and civilization. “God. I don’t know what to think,” she said as she drove. “Oom thinks there is power in the dandana. But I know you are God. If you are God, where is the rain? Why have you not sent it? Our country is desperate. Lord, we need you.”
Behind her, on the hill she had just left, a cloud formed in the dark, and the hint of rain permeated the air.
*Kroonkop: Crown Head. This is a sacred hill in the Limpopo Valley that separates northern South Africa from Southern Zimbabwe, and has been used for the Shona Rain Dance for hundreds of years.
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