Baboon nearly made a monkey of me
IT IS NEEDLESS to say that life is beautiful. The danger is in the cliché sound of the statement.
It feels uncomfortable, but let us presume that the cliché is forgivable for now. At the beginning of this month, last week to be precise, the weather was threatening to boast its normality in September.
Personally, I was not offended by the threat. I miss the normality of spring.
Let me confess my excitement at the beginning of last weeks’ temperament in the cool breath of spring.
Even the flowers in Khayelitsha were promising Kirstenbosch-like behaviour and I felt cool.
Please remember my Karoo (Qaru) roots and forgive my spring time melodies. It might sound exaggerated, but that is not the intention. I also do not want the other months to think that I am showing a bias to this month, but it is difficult.
I did say before that the two most beautiful persons in my life, my mama and my ex-wife were born in this month!
Now you know why the month demands a bias from me. And just when I was about to justify my bias to this month, the spring of the month began to change into a winter-like attitude.
I might be biased, but I really prefer my spring to behave like spring and not like winter. Mind you, I also think that winter has the right to be winter and should not be expected to be like summer. But so the argument of ecological beauty might be changing.
The discomfort is that I do not properly want to deal with that change. Let me confess that green politics was not an area of understanding for me. But slowly but sure that reality is beginning to concern me.
There is a feeling that now that national politics do not occupy the centre of discourse, the point of concentration begs us to see a deeper importance in the nature of life.
I had, for instance, asked myself the other day when last I had seen a porcupine? And I don’t mean in a zoo. What about the springbok? And I do not mean from a rugby garment. And the hare? Are they still around?
There is a deep feeling within me that we need a green movement. I do not even know if there is a green party in this country. But if it is there I am pleading that they be taken seriously. I have a hunch that their voice might make us smell the beauty of this beautiful country.
The only place nowadays where one can see a lion is on a packet of chips.
Popular media has it that the hippopotamus is in danger.
In the city I seldom see a donkey. And when I see a fish in Cape Town it is usually in a restaurant or in a café.
Some don’t see it, they smell it as they walk past a fast-food outlet. The last time I saw a gorilla was in a circus in Victoria West and that was in the 1970s.
I remember my sense of disapproval in the experience because some white chaps said the gorilla looked like me.
“Mind you,” they said, “we are not saying that you look like a baboon. It is that baboon who looks like you.” Needless to say, that night, when I gave myself one of those curious glances in the mirror, I ended up in great tremor, wondering if those ouens were not talking the truth.
The following morning I asked my mum, with concern, if I was not maybe in some way baboonish, seeing that their clan name was “Baboon”. Mum said I was not baboonish.
I belonged to a clan (Amamfene) who were far from being baboons. She, of course, was from that clan.
Later, I asked the principal of the school, since he was more educated than the people in the town, if I did not show baboonish tendencies at school.
He ascertained that in my looks and intellect I was far from the gorilla or baboon species. My delight at this piece of information was immeasurable!
It is only much later that I learnt of the human-being-baboon genealogical connections at university and badly wanted, maybe not to be related to the baboon, but to the monkey (they were reputed to be more flexible and intelligent than baboons).
However, this I never shared with my friends at school. They were already mocking me about being born from a baboon (my mom’s clan name).
Let me hasten to explain that my mom’s clan name is not the only one related to animals. There are the amaNdlovu (elephants), and the ooBhayi (rabbits) among the clans that carry animal names in the Xhosa peoples.
It is bothersome to me that we have not adequately dealt with this anthropological value. There is undoubtedly a deep essence in the understanding.
It is a challenge that society seeks ways of how to deepen our consciousness on the matter. It is not only zoology but, I think, sociology and anthropology at work here.
Needless to say, there is a feeling deep in me that the white’s anthropology might serve us with a deep human consciousness in this regard.
We do not need to be ashamed of the complexity in the relationship that exists between us and animals. I just have an uncomfortable feeling about how I relate to the sheep. I love lamb. I did not just love lamb. I grew up in a society that taught me to love lamb. I have not been able to prune myself from that delicacy.
Whenever a lamb was slaughtered I felt that awkwardness, but being a member of the clan, I cannot see how to explain myself to the lamb.
On an aside; lions, leopards, tigers and crocodiles do think that human beings are delicious. But in all fairness I still need to know if they have not maybe with time changed their appetites.
As I say, unable to chat to them, I have not yet had an interview with a lion. It is not a question of time. Let’s call it: discomfort. It is not the lion’s discomfort, it’s mine.
It is just my insecurity about what the lion might think when he sees me. He might just be reminded of the day he escaped when James was shooting his family. And when the lion sees me he might think I look like James.
It is general knowledge that lions, when they encounter you, do not ask for your ID. Neither do they smell your identity. They are not really interested in identity, especially when they are hungry.
Again, this might be my bias, but mostly in the Hollywood movies they were not very friendly. I have never seen a friendly lion! Is there something called a friendly lion?
Another animal with a very dubious relationship with human beings is the snake.
It is common knowledge that there are various snake families that are not really hurtful to us as human beings.
But I do not know them. It might be that Biblical moment of Adam and Eve, but I have not been entirely sure of my relationship with snakes.