Real the Basotho people connect with their ancestors

Real travellers are avoiding ‘touristy’ attractions and want realcultural experiences on the Sani Pass.We all want to believe that the tribal dance in the villagewe travel so far to see is more “real” than the one performed at dinner at theairport hotel.

We want to believe that the bread we had at the small Basothovillage is more “authentic” than the overpriced snack that tourists pay for atthe Waterfront markets.Today authenticity has become the goal and measure of travel.”Real” travellers are avoiding expensive, posed tourist attractions, preferringto wander off the “beaten track”. Many avoid the “touristy” places and arediscerning about wanting to have ‘real’ cultural experiences.David Sze in his blog on ‘The Myth of Authentic Travel’ says:          “Don’t sell usstuff”, “Give us the ‘real’ thing, the ‘authentic’ experience.

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“This tour is the ‘real’ thing:’When an old Man dies,the library burns to the ground’The Sani Pass tour isthe gateway to a remote Lesotho village huddled between mountains and rivers.  We watch in silence as an elderly traditionalhealer lights herbs to accompany her song and dance ritual.  Draped in red clothing and bedecked with alion headdress she softly moves her aged body in time with the drumbeat.  She sways in order to cleanse herself of anyego and allow the ancestors to use her as a conduit to heal pain andsuffering.  Much like many Christianfaiths consult angels and divine energy to connect with their beliefs so theBasotho people connect with their ancestors to provide a gateway to their divinebeliefs. Local communities come from far and wide to consult on a wide range ofphysical ailments to serious problems with their love life.

      Traditionalhealers provide an important link between the rural people of Africa andprimary health care. African women, particularly older ones in ruralcommunities, utilize the traditional healer’s timeless and ancient caregivingwhen faced with symptoms of mental and physical illness.Five years ago it was reported that there was one qualified doctor toevery 16000 people in this country. A qualitative study in Lesotho inresource-poor settings with heavy burdens of HIV proved that genuinetraditional healers played many roles in HIV care.  Base knowledge of the disease in an emotionalcontext was high.Basotho,like other communities, have their own unique traditional knowledge, beliefsand culture that help them raise their children, unify them as a nation,protect themselves, their livestock and crops from natural disasters anddiseases and to manage their environment better in a sustainable manner.

However, this valuable knowledge is often hidden, undocumented, usually knownby a few and mostly the elderly in the society. And in most cases, some ofthese elderly people die with this valuable treasure. As an old African proverbstates “when the old man dies, the library burns to the ground”, societies areslowly losing some of the important knowledge as old people die. According to(Louise, 1998), indigenous knowledge is stored in people’s memories andactivities. It is expressed in stories, songs, folklore, proverbs, dances,myths, cultural values, beliefs, rituals, community laws, local languages andtaxonomy, agricultural practices, equipment, materials, plant species andanimal breeds.                Traditionalhealers in Lesotho and other African countries have since pre-historic timesplayed a major role in primary health care, counselling and the ritualsperformed for different purposes in the society. Traditional healers in thepast had their houses located very close to the main house of the villagechief. This was to ensure that the healer is always accessible to the chief asthey were not only entrusted in disease healing and driving away witchcraft butthey were also the main advisors to the chief.

The knowledge traditionalhealers have on forecasting certain events, protecting crops and animals fromhail and thunder storm, healing the sick, and driving away the evil spirit isoften not documented and as a result it is slowly going into extinction. Thisvaluable knowledge is often not protected by law and known by a few. Althoughthe sky burns blue we are still as the healer focuses on the shadowy figure ofthe man before her, speaking through the young Basotho village guide she tellshim he is strong and will live a long life. She inspects a wound on a child’s arm producing a poultice of herbs toprevent infection.  We are told that aqueue straggles in from the distant horizon as her wisdom is a balm to manyaching folk.Manytimes when the day is over, they explain to us, she goes to submerge herself inan icy river to cleanse the healing from her body.

  Gueststouring with Major Adventures on the Cultural and Heritage tour via the breathtaking Sani Pass can experience an exclusive visit with this humble traditionalhealer before the sun sets on an ancient custom which has acted as the backboneof 80% of the African people Acknowledgement to the Paper from theAnalysis of Traditional Healers in Lesotho: Implications on IntellectualProperty Systems. Pitso Masupha, Lefa Thamae, Mofihli Phaqane, ATPS Workingpaper 68 and AIDS Civic Society.Major Adventures Cultural and HeritageTour +27 33 701 1628, [email protected],www.majoradventures.com