From the very first time I stepped onto the continent of Africa in 2003, that moment when I put my foot onto the tarmac at Cape Town airport, I felt a strange tingle in my bones; I felt I’d come home. So far as I’m aware, I have no family roots anywhere on this huge continent, but nevertheless, I felt an affinity with the land. Even before connections and coincidences led me and my husband to start another chapter in our lives in South Africa, ten years ago, I’d become fascinated with the landscape, the wildlife and the people who’d foraged along the shores and wandered over the wide, scrubby grasslands of the veld.
The story of the original inhabitants of what is now the Western Cape is a sad one of exploitation, displacement and dispossession, all so tragically similar to many of indigenous populations across the world. I’ve followed my fascination with those early people, the Khoisan through works of both fact and fiction – there’s a reference list of books I’ve read at the end of this post – but it’s their legends and customs that have increasingly inspired my writing.
A nod or two to those landscapes and traditions have wormed their way into my most recent novel, Song of the Sea Goddess, and the so far unnamed sequel I’m busy with now, but for the most part my inspirations have manifested themselves in some of the short pieces and poems which I’ve shared here on my blog, like my San Man stories last year, and more recently, my micro-fiction series, Owab and Aquila.
Also last year, when the opportunity arose, I wrote a handful of poems inspired by the legends and landscape of South Africa to submit for inclusion in Creation and the Cosmos – a Poetic Anthology Inspired by Nature, edited and published by the talented tara caribou of Raw Earth Ink. I was delighted to have all five of them accepted and to have my words included amongst the poems and photographs of a such a wonderfully talented group of creatives. Here’s one.
Call of the maiden
The breeze-caressed veld sways
sending dry waves to break on a distant shore
whirlwind dust-devils dance over bare earth
rising up to be scorched into stillness.
Evening swells across the veld
and the thorn-tree’s shadow
reaches out with tendril fingers
to caress the smudge-blue foothills.
As daylight fades, the breeze quickens
and the new maiden emerges
standing on the threshold of the distant koppie
in that powerful place between hearth and wilderness.
She turns and kneels at the young man’s side
offering herself to him.
Limbs entwine and under the eyes of the ancestors
they become one.
Darkness closes in and the great African she-moon rises
pin-prick stars stab the violet-thick night
and now the once-maiden cries out
her triumphant ululation echoing across the empty veld.
©2021 Chris Hall
from Creation and the Cosmos
Creation and the Cosmos ~ A Poetic Anthology Inspired by Nature
Artists: emje mccarty, Heather Trotter, Steven Bryson
Authors: Braeden Michaels, Brandon White, Robert Birkhofer, Stephanie Lamb, Hidden Bear, Jenny Hayut, Chris Nelson, Chris Hall, Mark Ryan, Mark Tulin, R.H. Alexander, Sarah Licht, Oleg Kagan, Meredith Heller, Rachael Holmes, Kathryn Winograd, fara tucker, CG Tenpenny, Cassa Bassa, Cara Feral, Colleen Machut, Dvon Bridgeforth,
Photographer: Jimmi Campkin
Edited by: tara caribou
Voices of the San by Willemien le Roux and Alison White
Praying Mantis by André Brink
So Few are Free by Lawrence L. Green
The Coast of Treasure by Lawrence L. Green
A Millimetre of Dust: Visiting Ancestral Sites by Julia Martin
Rainmaker by Don Pinnock
Eagles, Fly Free by Chris Mellish
To find out more about the books you can find book details and my reviews on Goodreads.