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Dear Friends and Story Lovers,

Here is Kunyanda Shikamo arriving at the Kalahari Desert Festival 2013, with her dancing gear in hand. She was born in the village of Mucusso in Angola in 1954 and has lived on the Khwe and !Xun communal farm in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa for the past 22 years. Her mother tongue is Khwedam and she entertained us with this story about the origins of fire, given to her by her grandmother.
Lion’s Fire Sticks

This story starts in the old times when animals and people lived together. In those days people did not have the right to fire. They ate their food raw. Only Lion had the power of fire. He cooked delicious smelling food and kept everyone away from his fire.

People and animals came together to make a plan. “What can we do to get the fire from Lion so that we can cook our food?” they asked. They decided to wait until evening and then, started singing and singing, clapping and clapping, calling everyone together.

Come dance with us
Come dance with us
Come dance with us …

Many animals came from the bush to join in the dancing and singing. Lion could not resist the singing and dancing, so he came with his fire sticks. He rubbed the sticks, rubbed and rubbed. Soon a little smoke appeared beneath the sticks. Lion blew on the smoke and scraped some dry grass into it. A little flame appeared and everyone brought a piece of wood. Soon everyone was dancing around the fire.

Hare was a cunning and fast animal, so the people said to him: “While we are singing here and while Lion is dancing with us and not looking, you must take his fire sticks and run. When he chases you, we will kill his fire.”

Hare grabbed Lion’s fire sticks and ran. He did not make it because Lion caught up with him and brought the fire sticks back. Lion sang a boastful song about eating animals with hair and the people without hair.

I don’t have a problem
I can eat you with hair
You without hair
I don’t have a problem
All of you are food to me.

Springbok could run and jump very fast. The people said to him: “While Lion is dancing and singing here with us, you must grab his fire sticks and run.”

When they were dancing and singing, Springbok grabbed the fire sticks and jumped away into the veld. But Lion said: “ Why do I not hear the clippety-clop of Springbok’s hooves behind me?”

Lion turned and saw Springbok running into the veld with his fire sticks. So he ran after Springbok, caught him and came back with his fire sticks.

Again, Lion sang his boastful song.

“Oh” sighed the people, “Which animal can help us now? Ostrich has the longest legs of all, let us ask him.” They explained the plan to Ostrich and he grabbed Lion’s fire sticks during the dancing this time.

Lion said: “ Why do I not hear Ostrich’s high singing voice behind me anymore?” He looked around, saw Ostrich and chased after him.

Lion returned with a tired face, for ostrich ran too fast for him. “From this day on,” he said, “I will not leave any of you alone. I will hunt you and chase you and eat you!”

And this is how Lion came to be everyone’s enemy and how people got the power of fire.

My story walks till there.

Kalahari Desert Festival Long Sequence - 042

(Above) Nisa from the Botswana Giraffe Dance Group. (photos by Satsiri Winberg)

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A close-up of Nisa and her baby.

Till next time.