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Hunting >> Hunting in Africa & hunting dangerous game

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Reged: 28/03/07
Posts: 65
Loc: Zimbabwe
      #74919 - 29/03/07 07:30 AM

This is the theme story from my book 'The Shangaan Song'. Hope it meets with approval.


In life, Ian de la Rue was an enigma, in death he is a legend. Powerful yet gentle, is the best way to describe that remarkable man. He was a mountain in every conceivable manner and people from all walks of life respect his memory to this day. One has only to travel about the Chiredzi area, speaking with local inhabitants, in order to appreciate the high regard in which Ian de la Rue’s memory is held. Most will have a Maware story to tell, all will recount the tale fondly, remembering a companion.

Ian de la Rue, or Maware as he was affectionately known, was a friend – nay a father of the community – a man of the people. After a few years travelling the world, he arrived in the Lowveld in 1933, deciding to settle down and ranch cattle here. From then until his death in 1992 he never left the area for any significant period. Throughout that time, he worked relentlessly at developing the district and improving the living standard of the lowveld people.
A son of the soil, Ian de la Rue was, above all else, a specialized cattleman. In addition to this he was a proficient crop grower, a talented and forward thinking writer, a gifted wood worker, a water diviner extraordinaire, an able but unlicensed aviator, an active community developer and a bush engineer of dubious ability! Amongst other things for there is no end to Uncle Ian, the stories shall keep his spirit alive eternally.
Ian de la Rue finally succumbed to illness at the age of eighty-one in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. It was never his intention to die in Harare, but circumstance prevented him from dying on Ruware in the home that he loved. Shortly after his death, his body was brought back to the Lowveld for burial. He was laid to rest beside his wife Violet, in the beautiful garden that they had created and nurtured together, as they had created and nurtured, through the years, the dream that was their lives in this remote and awesome corner of the world.

The Lowveld turns out en masse for the funeral of Maware. Black and white man alike gather in that garden to pay homage to the great man. Shangaans, Shonas and Europeans, men, women and children – the entire community attends. There are cattlemen and farmers, hunters, doctors, businessmen, teachers and general workers. Seldom have I seen such a turn out in the Lowveld, or such a cross section of our society assembled together in one place.
The priest commits Uncle Ian’s soul to the Lord, and then his body is interred. A short rehearsed speech of endearment and encouragement follows, something about overcoming obstacles for greater glory. It means little to me. This Harare priest did not know Maware, is not aware of the obstacles that fine man overcame in his lifetime.
After this we sing a few Christian hymns. These do mean something to me, and all the more so because I recognize them as being some of Maware’s favourite renditions – I lend my voice energetically. The service does not last long and, upon its conclusion, people begin milling about, waiting to disperse. And then the Shangaan sing.

“Tatani mufambile, asi emoya wamwina wahanya.
Kharhi wamwine we la musaveni uherile, asi mukota gama mahaha.
Hirhiseni Tatani, kalesvi hinga havako tamo kasvona.
Hitekenivo Tatani, kema papa emoya Wokhukhula.”

“Father you have gone, but your spirit lives.
Your life on earth is spent, but with the eagle you soar.
Guide us Father, in our helpless mortality.
Take us with you Father, on the wings of the Great Spirit.”

Whilst the service was taking place, the tribal elders had organized a choir of some of the finest singing voices available. Comprising roughly equal numbers of men and women, these songsters now stand slightly apart from the crowd, loosely clustered at the bottom of the garden. Their song is a song of heartfelt expression, a final tribute to a man who loved them as family, and a man they loved as a father. It is a seductively haunting tribute of melodious contrast, inspiring highs and lows that render the entire congregation statuesquely incapable of movement.
As with most moments of wonder, it is all over far too soon. My feeble attempts at literary description are actually an insult to the choir, for it is impossible to sing the Shangaan song with ink on paper. Only rhythmic Shangaan voices are able to weave this extraordinary brand of magic.

Later, after the crowd has dissipated and whilst we are cleaning up, Bharu approaches me.
“Manheru bwana. Maswera sei?” “Good evening boss. How did you spend the day?”
“Manheru Bharu. Ndaswera maswerawo?” “Good evening Bharu. I spent it if you spent it?”
“Ndaswera.” “I spent it.”
Having ascertained that we have both spent the day, we spend a few minutes chatting about nothing in particular, but I sense that Bharu has something on his mind. Eventually he dispenses with the idle chatter.
“Boss, on which day exactly did Maware die?”
“On Wednesday, why do you ask?”
Bharu shakes his head gravely, taking his time.
“We heard that it was so, that Maware died on Wednesday. We found it to be strange, very strange indeed, mysterious in fact.”
At this point Bharu stops talking and begins rolling a cigarette with newspaper and rough, loose tobacco. Though I manage to control my impatience, I become a little exasperated with the rolling and ignition ritual, beginning to wonder why it was so mysterious that Maware died on Wednesday. Puffing contentedly on a thick pink Financial Gazette cigarette, Bharu eventually explains.
“It is strange that Maware died on Wednesday, for on that very night a lion was heard roaring, not far from here. As you know this is a most unusual occurrence.”
“Yes,” I admit, pondering a little. “It certainly is an unusual occurrence. But lions do occasionally move through this area and, in life, coincidence is common.”
Bharu shakes his head in disbelief, appraising me sorrowfully before scathingly trashing my comment.
“There is no such thing as coincidence. It, like lions in this area, does not exist! The difference is that lions did once occur here. Coincidence never did, here or in any other place!”
I consider myself suitably chastised and decide to become less opinionated in future. Bharu takes a few seconds to calm down and retrieve his breath.
“The lion is the Spirit of Maware, there is no other explanation.”
Leaving this profound statement ringing in my ears, Bharu excuses himself and departs.

One day, shortly after the funeral, our cook Graziano wakes me early in the morning. He tells me that Bharu has arrived and is waiting outside. I dress hurriedly and walk out into the crisp morning air. I find Bharu behind the kitchen, slurping a mug of hot sweet tea and predictably puffing on a king-size cigarette. He is uncharacteristically excited and obviously struggling to contain himself. It does not take him long to launch into speech and, as I suspected, it concerns the lion. It turns out that the lion returned once again to the Headquarters area during the night, that it had roamed about roaring constantly for many hours. As far as Bharu is concerned, this is irrefutable evidence that the lion’s presence is spiritually orientated and closely connected with the death of Maware, that the lion is indeed the Spirit of Maware. Not that Bharu needs proof. After all, he is a leader in the field of spiritual matters and has a direct hotline to the spirits.
The Land Rover bounces us along the corrugated road to Headquarters. Above the noise of the engine and rattling chassis, I loudly ask Bharu how it was possible he heard the lion roaring during the night when his home is so distant from Headquarters. I know that he hears the question though he feigns otherwise. My ignorance when it comes to spiritual matters greatly perplexes Bharu, and the query obviously irritates him. I remain silent for the remainder of the journey. After arriving at Headquarters it does not take us long to find the lion tracks. Clearly discernable on the sandy surface of the circuitous road that ensnares Homestead Kopje, it is obvious that the imprints are those of a large male. After scouting around for a few minutes, I determine that there are several sets of tracks, although all the individual prints seem to be of the same size. It appears as if a group of mature male lion walked this road the night before. Of course, that is a ludicrous assumption and Bharu – an extremely capable tracker amongst many other attributes – sets the record straight.
“All of these tracks belong to the same lion,” he says. “This lion walked around Maware’s house many times during the course of the night.”
The evidence is staring at me right between the eyes and I feel a shiver of excitement. I find the lion’s nocturnal behavior to be very strange indeed, mysterious in fact. From his crouched position inspecting the spoor in the gravel, Bharu looks up at me knowingly.

Like Ian de la Rue, that lion becomes something of a legend in our area, albeit a living one. Soon after arriving, it embarks on a cattle killing spree of monumental proportions, never attacking Ruware cattle, always crossing the river and killing on neighbouring ranches. Dad questions the elders as to why the Spirit of Maware would kill cattle, when those animals were everything that Maware held dear in life. The answer is that the lion (physical sense) has
to eat, and that Maware only lived for his own cattle, not cattle in general. The elders say it is noticeable to everyone that the lion lives on Ruware but kills elsewhere. Dad decides against trying to explain that this is actually typical behaviour for an experienced lowveld lion, a lion that has spent its entire existence evading hunters and dodging their bullets! He says later that he didn’t feel it an appropriate moment to bring up the behavioral patterns of modern day panthero leo.
The lion stays in our area for a marathon eight months. Several ranchers in the area suffer huge stock losses to its insatiable appetite, and a concerted effort is made by all and sundry to bring about its demise. Many people come to know of the spiritual mystery associated with the lion, and local proponents of modern Christian civilization put in much overtime in their endeavours to disprove the legend. Often I hear it said by learned men that, as soon as the lion was shot, the ridiculous fable would be exposed for what it was – witchcraft and nonsensical superstition. I am not particularly convinced.
Many hunters (both professional and otherwise) work relentlessly at trying to outwit the lion, and Bharu finds their efforts hugely amusing.
“It is impossible to shoot the Lion Spirit with bullets!” he says, before cracking up with laughter at the sheer absurdity of the notion.
At one stage, a certain hunter (otherwise) claims to have shot at and wounded the lion. I am sceptical for this man’s hunting ability has always been doubted. Bharu simply shrugs off the claim when I inform him.
“How do you wound the Lion Spirit?” he asks. “How is it possible to wound the moon and the stars, the sun and the clouds, the very heavens in their infinity? Is a mere mortal capable of achieving these feats? I think not. Tell this to your hunter friends. Tell them that they are wasting their time and can hardly afford to do so. Tell them to appreciate what time they have been granted and to use it constructively!”
I deliver the message verbally one night at a social function, and my hunter friends laugh lustily at the presumptuous nature of the simple peasant and his gullible white messenger boy. They promise to re-intensify their efforts. That night I put my money on the lion, and my dubious reputation, once again, on the line.

The months pass and nobody ever gets close to the lion, let alone takes a shot at it. Bharu says that Maware (as he has proudly named the lion) will always remain several steps ahead of his pursuers. That it cannot be otherwise.
The hunters eventually become disillusioned with their failure. As their chances of success become more distantly remote, most of them throw in the towel, saying they have better things to do than charge around the bush looking for phantom lions. I experience smugness, although Bharu is quick to remind me of my initial cynicism. Only one resilient stalwart, a hunter of the truly professional variety, never gives up. Once, whilst huddled high in a tree blind late at night, this hunter experiences the only sighting ever made of that lion. Naturally, he is not presented with a clear shot. Later he recounts the experience to me and I shall always remember what he says.
“It was weird Dave, and make no mistake. Now as you know I have hunted many lions and I don’t for one minute swallow that spiritual mumbo jumbo, but I tell you man it was weird. I could not, try as I might, get a clear shot. He stuck to the trees and weaved in and out of those trees like a ghost, never providing an opportunity. I’m sure my eyes were also playing tricks with me, somehow blurring my vision. Maybe I was just tired but the moon was full and they have never let me down before. I must say it was all very strange. I guess I was just xhausted, but I have booked an appointment with the eye specialist anyway.”
I say nothing.

The lion does eventually kill on Ruware and it kills quality, the victim being a prize Brahman bull from Uncle Ian’s beloved Headquarter’s herd. Ian de la Rue was a renowned cattleman, and it was always his opinion that a Tuli/ Brahman cross was the ideal animal for the Lowveld, that it produced a durable breed most suited to local conditions. In the latter years of his life, Uncle Ian kept a small herd of this fine crossbreed at the bottom of Homestead Kopje, for his own personal viewing pleasure. After passing up the sitting duck Headquarter’s herd for months on end, the lion eventually attacks them late one night, when the moon is at its fullest. Panicked, the herd breaks from the stockade, bellowing off into the night. With the exception of the grand herd bull however, which is discovered early the following morning, bitten and broken-necked but otherwise untouched, not fed upon at all. The bull killing is considered to be a most strange happening indeed, for what self-respecting lion leaves a good feed untouched?
Dad approaches the elders with confidence the next day.
“You said that Maware would not kill his own cattle. Therefore, the killing of the bull proves that the lion cannot be the Spirit of Maware.”
Dad is confronted by a great deal of patient head shaking and sighing, before Pashela speaks on behalf of the elders.
“On the contrary,” says Pashela the wise man. “Last night’s killing actually proves, without any doubt, that the lion is the Spirit of Maware. Maware is leaving us and he is taking his finest bull with him, this we know. There is no other explanation for it has been said. You may now tell the hunters to cease hunting, the lion shall not kill again in this area, for a time at least.”
Pashela’s words are silently endorsed by the musing, bobbing agreement of
several grey heads.

Bharu arrives at Chehondo one day, not long after the bull killing. He says we should take a drive down to the Chiredzi River. Slowly we drive along the road that meanders lethargically past the picturesque Eulongwa Hills, on its way down to where the southernmost boundary of Ruware meets the Chiredzi River. On the way Bharu tells me that Maware the lion has left the area. Being a relatively quick learner, I do not ask how he came across this information. We reach the Matema road and there we find the lion’s tracks. We follow the spoor for the remainder of that day. It is not difficult for the lion has stuck to the Matema road like a mobile gravel magnet, walking in a dead straight line roughly parallel to the wending course of the Chiredzi River. We follow the trail over the Chongwe River crossing and then we reach the ranch boundary. It is getting late and we are forced to turn back. I can only assume that the lion has continued in the same direction, through Buffalo Range and Hippo Valley to Gonarezhou (place of the elephants) National Park, from where, in all likelihood, it originally came. I ask Bharu where he thinks the lion has gone. Bharu also believes that the lion has returned to the place it came from, to the Kingdom of the Great Spirit high in the heavens above. Whatever its final destination may have been, the lion never returns.

Later that week, I go alone to the graves in the beautiful garden on Homestead Kopje, to honour the memory of my great uncle and that of my great aunt. It is late evening when I arrive and I remain there long after nightfall. As I kneel by the graves in silent prayer, a haunting melody, emanating from the river valley below, reaches my ears. A barely audible hum to begin with, it is gradually transformed, by way of dozens of synchronized voices pitched to opposite and absolute extremes, into the harmonious enchantment that is the Shangaan song.

Tatani mufambile, asi emoya wamwina wahanya………

Father you have gone, but your spirit lives………

(Added to the Ezine)

Edited by Ezine (01/07/10 05:07 AM)

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.450 member

Reged: 24/02/03
Posts: 6051
Loc: The beautiful Oley Valley, PA....
Re: THE SHANGAAN SONG [Re: David_Hulme]
      #74929 - 29/03/07 08:10 AM

Great article! Thanks for posting it here for us to enjoy.

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.375 member

Reged: 27/04/06
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Re: THE SHANGAAN SONG [Re: David_Hulme]
      #74994 - 30/03/07 02:36 AM


I like your style Dave!

what a great read!
Wel done sir, very well done indeed!

Thank you very much for sharing that.


Double Trouble,
Speak not of what you do not know.
Listen up when it's time to.

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.416 member

Reged: 05/01/03
Posts: 4647
Loc: Pend Oreille Valley, Idaho
Re: THE SHANGAAN SONG [Re: Double_Trouble]
      #163327 - 04/07/10 12:38 PM

For some reason I just now read this. Beautifully written true to the Heart.

Lovu Zdar

A Man of Pleasure, Enterprise, Wit and Spirit Rare Books, Big Game Hunting, English Rifles, Fishing, Explosives, Chauvinism, Insensitivity, Public Drunkenness and Sloth, Champion of Lost and Unpopular Causes.

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