Monday, 10 August 2009

Where memories drain away...

Ntlangano forms part of a very extensive wilderness system, the latter occupying much of the area between Mthatha and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The Tsitsa drainage area starts northwest of Maclear; the Tina, Mzimvubu and Mzintlava – all of which converge close to the Tina-Tsitsa confluence – drains the entire area stretching well past Kokstad and Matatiele on the east. In other words, most of the southeast escarpment boundary with Lesotho ultimately drains into the Mzimvubu through Port St John’s.

These four great rivers develop into deeply incised river valleys that converge between Flagstaff, Lusikisiki, Libode, Tsolo, Qumbu and Ntabankulu. Despite the preponderance of villages on the ridges above these valleys, much of the area is remote, inaccessible wilderness. It invites a sense of mystery and the unexplored. It stands to reason that this area contains a vast biome of interesting, often endemic, plant life. It is a biological point of attraction.

The first picture in the sequence shows Tsitsa Falls. The one below is indicative of the terrain. Much of the river is crowded-in with inaccessible cliff-face, which generally drops around 600m.

The valley floor is repeatedly restricted by cliff-face, and the river is too deep to cross. The surrounding vegetation – dominated by Euphorbia and thorny thicket – is too dense and unforgiving to allow ready bypasses, even should the gradient permit for that.

Down here there’s an eerie coastal feel – lots of white sand, smooth rocks, and an almost coastal vegetation feel. Almost. There’s still an abundance of Euphorbia and assorted thorn bush. The path meets the very occasional homestead – clearly people who have defied the old betterment resettlement and moved back to ancestral homes (in the process compromising access to infrastructure such as roads, clinics, schools, taxis).

Above is the Tina river, and below is the gentler Tina valley. This area generally drops around 600m as well. The Ntlangano valley has long been an outlaw area, and there are historical accounts (around 90 years ago) of youths returning from the mines and being a law unto themselves in the valley. Stock theft repeatedly thrived in this dense, difficult to penetrate landscape.

Flood 2 Fun

This is a small tributary of the Tina river in the Ntlangano area of the Eastern Cape. (See previous entry for more details.) We had earlier driven through this river en route to the Tina Falls, but were cut-off for a few hours on our return after a severe thunderstorm. The river had swollen massively for a short while, but by the time these kids had entered, it was already receding. Out of sight (in front) was a minor waterfall, and at the time of the picture above the current was still far too strong to venture close to it.

By the time this picture was taken, the kid in the foreground was risking the current just above the little waterfall. Notice his intense concentration in the next picture.

Its a while later, and activity is generally far more relaxed. In the final picture kids have ventured onto the minor waterfall. Beyond was a far more serious waterfall that would still have swept away all-and-sundry.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Soccer and composite rural entertainment

Cultural activities are being seriously degraded across South Africa as a component of a tourism industry dominated by values derived from European settlement. Despite the emergence of a significant black leisure market, much product packaging remains tailored to American, European and white South African tastes and value systems.

These pictures were taken at a soccer tournament held to launch a business development venture in a deep rural part of the Wild Coast (Cwebe village). The tournament guaranteed attendance of large numbers of villagers, and allowed an assortment of cultural groups to showcase traditional dancing.

What makes these pictures unique is that the activities were directed at local residents, without the trappings and compromises involved in the tourism industry. More pictures will be released in subsequent postings. The event took place in a particularly picturesque valley, surrounded by village dwellings and indigenous forest, with the sea clearly visible close by.

While older participants naturally organised their performances in synchrony with their experience of traditional activities and dress, organisers of the youth groups are dedicated and highly committed crafters of traditional culture, operating without financial or logistical support.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Framed by mud

Dawn arising, Cwebe village, South Africa.

Thursday, 05 February 2009

Peace & Chill

Mbanyana estuary, Cwebe Nature Reserve, Wild Coast, Eastern Cape, South Africa. The Nature Reserve belongs to the rural communities of Dwesa and Cwebe, comprising Gcalekha (Xhosa), amaBomvana and Mfengu people.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Into another world

The Rock that lures you into Deep Pools of Ancestral transition. The top picture shows a rock on the Mbanyana estuary, Cwebe, where people are believed to be lured to a transition from the present to the next world. The second picture was taken on the coastal route from Mbanyana to Nkanya, Wild Coast, South Africa.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Breasts of the White Woman

Zanthoxylum capense, or umLungumabele - breast of a white woman - in isiXhosa; viewed on the Nqabara estuary, Eastern Cape. Known as amaBelentombi in Zulu (breasts of a girl). One wonders what it was called in isiXhosa prior to the appearance of the first ship-wrecked whites; and you're left intrigued by the rather disproportionate structure of the breast!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Hard Rock of Times

This rock formation is on the Nqabara river, inland from Dwesa Nature Reserve on the South African Wild Coast, in the vicinity of Mpume.
Metallic in appearance, Nqabara River, approximately 10km inland from the coast. What's happening? Everybody's hard at work cracking Macadamia nuts after a horse ride!

Thursday, 08 January 2009

Metal - structure in beauty

Taken at Mtentu, Wild Coast, South Africa. An Australian company won the right to extract heavy minerals (for example titanium) from this area, but strong community opposition is ensuring that the only extracted minerals remain the rusty artwork which was long ago shipwrecked here. Mtentu is located within the Mpondoland Centre of Endemism, a botanical wonderland.

Where ships die horses wander

The community-owned and managed Amadiba Horse & Hiking trail traverses the coast from Mzamba to Mtentu.