‘You must call the San Man,’ she whispers. ‘Only he can bring the rain bull.’
‘You must go to the cave which watches over the veld. Go at dusk, light a fire.’ She reaches into the pouch she has beside her and holds out a handful of grey-green herbs. ‘Burn a little of this; and then watch and wait.’
He raises his eyebrows at his two companions.
The old woman holds up a finger. ‘He may not come the first night,’ she shakes her head slowly. ‘He may not come at all.’ She stares intently at each of them. ‘Now go.’
The three men depart.
‘I guess it’s worth a try,’ says the first. He is a tall, robust white man, dressed in shorts and sandals; the hint of an overseas accent.
‘Another winter with no rain; we must do something,’ agrees the second, a brown-skinned man, whose features echo the ancient people that once inhabited this corner of Africa.
The third man, by far the youngest of the three is silent. He too is brown-skinned, a son of the Rainbow Nation, where a multitude of peoples have planted their seeds.
Later, the three trudge silently up to the koppie where the ancient cave paintings are. The air is hot and parched like the veld. The sky turns liquid orange as the sun is swallowed up by the smudge-blue mountains. They light the fire and sprinkle herbs onto the flames. The three settle down to watch and wait.
/…to be continued
Today is a public holiday in South Africa. The Day of Reconciliation came into effect in 1995 after the end of apartheid, with the intention of fostering reconciliation and national unity for the country.
The characters in this new story represent (some of) the different groups in this country and the story has its roots in some earlier pieces I wrote about the rain animal my mythical, mystical San Man. There is more to tell of the story.
The struggle for water is a perennial and worsening challenge in many parts of the world. It was starkly brought home to us last year when Capetonians faced ‘Day Zero’, the day when the taps would run dry. The crisis was averted, but we still cannot waste a drop and must search for other ways to bring water to the thirsty land.