We picked this dispatch as today's "Best."
Click here to have future picks e-mailed to you!
Winter is the dry season and since it hasn't rained in weeks, I neglected to heed the ominous clouds that were accumulating on the horizon this morning and did not bring my rain parka. Now I am at the pre-European ruins at Great Zimbabwe, learning about ancient Africa while I learn how to stay warm by moving around a lot.
When it was first discovered by European settlers, researchers refused to believe that it was built by Africans because they had never seen anything like it in all of southern Africa. Originally it was believed that this strange city must have been built by Greek or North African settlers whose cultures had been acquainted with this type of building for thousands of years. But modern researchers believe that it was in fact built by the Shona people of the region. They probably learned these techniques while trading in distant lands. It is well established that the Swahili people of Mozambique were trading with people as far away as China. Pot fragments from the Ming Dynasty, and beads from India have also been found in the Great Zimbabwe ruins.
Abeja and I wander through the ruins of the hilltop complex, marveling at the ingenuity of these people. While the ruins are not as impressive as Machu Picchu, they have a distinct character and from the top of the hill I can see the entire valley. When this city was in its prime in the 14th and 15th centuries it is believed that as many as 20,000 people lived here. Standing at the top of the highest point of the city, I look out over the rest of the ruins and try to imagine what it must have been like to be a Shona king standing guard over his kingdom. I imagine how proud these people must have been to have built such a city in a land where nothing like it had ever existed.
We enter one of the larger huts to find a medicine man and a female fortune teller inside. They are both wearing traditional headdresses of black feathers and beaded necklaces which indicate their special status in society. Both use the spirit world in their work to help them heal and guide their patients. The healer tells us he contacts the spirits through his dreams and they tell him how to heal and which medicines to use. The fortune teller's method is unusual, and well... a little more dramatic. Both Abeja and I are curious to find out what our futures hold so we ask for a reading. I get mine first. Without looking at me she snorts some snuff out of a horn and faces a small alter. The snuff seems to have a very powerful effect on her and she starts shaking and moaning as if in a great deal of pain. Her eyes roll back in her head and she waves her arms wildly as if battling with some force that we cannot see.
Then Abeja receives her fortune. Another snuff of black powder, more convulsive movements, guttural sounds and her fortune: "From here you will travel to your home and you will have a safe journey. You have a great and strong spirit and will live long and be blessed with as many children as you choose. She thanks you for your spirit and sees that you too are a spirit medium who will heal the people in the future. You must not lose hope and you must continue on your healing path... etc. ". Strangely enough, Abeja and I have the same fortune. Well, we are good friends and we work together so I guess it's not too unbelievable... is it?
After our fortune telling adventure we bravely go back out into the cold and rain. We make our way to what is known as the Great Enclosure, which is a huge circular wall surrounding what was once the royal village. The Great Enclosure is the largest ancient structure in sub-Saharan Africa. It is quite impressive to stand inside and consider how difficult it must have been to build with only crude metal tools and muscle power. Inside is another labyrinth of smaller walls and a large conical tower. Its purpose remains a mystery, although it may have been used to store the King's grain. The site is in relatively good condition with most of the structures still intact. Although when I get too close to the towering walls, I feel a bit apprehensive, as if the loosely fitting stones may come crumbling down at any moment.
Kevin - A Young Artist Searches For A Style of His Own
Monica - Breaking the Silence: 5 Brigade Victims Compensated
Monica - Visit with a Freedom Fighter: Talking about the Past, Looking Towards the Future
Making a Difference - Shouting from the Mountaintops to Raise Rape Awareness!
Time Machine | Multimedia and Special Guests
Home | Search | Teacher Zone | Odyssey Info