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Bushmen bless Queen’s Commonwealth Games baton

Bushmen bless Queen’s Commonwealth Games baton

The Bushmen who are the custodians of the N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary, some 70 kilometres north-east of Windhoek, last week welcomed the Queens’ Baton for the 2108 Commonwealth Games as it carried on with its pilgrimage across Africa.

The elders of the Bushmen community blessed the baton on its 70-nation journey, before it departed for the next leg of its sojourn in Australia.

The Bushmen, also known as the San People, made such an impression on the organisers of the baton’s travels, it became a hot item on the baton website.

By receiving the baton, this community got a sense of the real and incredible diversity that exists in today’s Commonwealth community.

The San, before receiving the Queen’s Baton, danced with a gentle stamping of their feet accompanied by clapping and haunting vocals. Marlice van Vuuren, the community’s patron and co-founder of N/a’an ku sê, explained the baton’s role to her keen followers, telling them about the Queen’s message and how far this baton will travel around the world.

For the blessing ceremony, from what the official Queen’s Baton website describes as a painted horizon, a small group of people emerge from the tall grass. The rest of the community of San living at N/a’an ku sê follows the leading elderly women.

“Light footed and silent they approach in single file towards the handful of tourists who are standing, slightly awkward, in the middle of the darkening savanna. Entirely unselfconscious of their diminutive stature and mostly naked bodies, the San shake the hands of everyone present and then sit in a tight circle on the sand.”

They quickly lit a new fire as they are not too taken in by a ceremonial fire lit by another person. Again Marlice translated, explaining “He says that he doesn’t like the fire that’s already been lit, and prefers to start his own.” She translates effortlessly and fluently for the audience from the native !Kung language.

Finally, the San are ready to be baton bearers. “Against a black African night sky, the colourful glow of the baton lights up their delicate faces and curious eyes” according to the baton website.

And then comes the climax when the San elders declare “We give it our blessings so that every hand that touches it must take our blessing with them. Our soul will be carried with the baton here on forward wherever it travels.”

The curious San held, hugged, felt and passed the baton amongst themselves, clapping, singing, giggling, and asking whispered questions which Marlice softly translates.

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The Community Contributor is any of a number of authors whose specific beat is community wellness, development and upliftment. Many of the authors have been contributors to the Economist for years. Others work for commercial enterprises, specialising in spreading their Corporate Social Responsibility messages. Ed.

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