African Art Part 3: Botswana

I have visited Botswana for short visits a number of times over the past two years and I have always enjoyed my time in this lovely country. Dumela (hello) is what you say to greet someone in Botswana.

Interest facts about Botswana

  1. Botswana is a  land-locked country situated in southern Africa, bordering Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia and Zambia;
  2. Botswana became independent in 1966 and is the oldest democratic state in Africa;
  3. Nearly 40% of the land is national parks and wildlife reserve, providing large areas for animals to roam;
  4. The national dish is Seswaa, a stew of boiled meat, maize meal and greens; and
  5. The Okavango Delta, a semi-arid expanse which covers 85% of the country, is known as the jewel in the Kalahari. The Okavango Delta is fed by annual floodwater from Okavango river.

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A traditional doll from Botswana made from corn sheaths

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A hand painted wooden crocodile from Botswana

Inkalimeva and the Hare: An African myth

The hare is a favourite villain in many African stories and in this one he encounters that strange animal, the inkalimeva.

One day the animals made a kraal and inside it they hid their most precious possession, a large pot of fat.

They told the rock rabbit, or dassie, that he must stand guard, and off they went.

By and by, who should come along, but the inkalimeva.

The dassie, who was a lazy little creature, had already fallen asleep, so the inkalimeva went in and ate up all the fat.

As he went out, he flicked a pebble at the dassie and woke him up. The dassie started up crying, ‘The fat belonging to all the animals has been eaten by the inkalimeva!’

The animals rushed up and were so angry about loosingtheir fat, that they killed the dassie.

When they had accumulated more fat, they set the muishond, or skunk, to guard the gate.

This time the inkalimeva brought with him a pot of honey (which the muishond loves!), and while the foolish guard was licking and guzzling the honey, the inkalimeva slipped in and devoured all the fat. Then he threw a stone at the muishond which made it look up. The muishond gave a cry of horror. The fat belonging to all the animals had been eaten by the inkalimeva!

Again the animals were very angry at loosing their precious fat, and the unfortunate muishond was soon beaten to death.

In vain the animals set new guards — the duiker, the blue buck, and the porcupine. Each in turn was outwitted by the inkalimeva.

At last they chose the hare to be guard. ‘Oh no,’ said the hare, ‘the dassie is dead, the muishond is dead, the blue buck is dead, the duiker is dead, and so is the porcupine. Do you think I am tired of life?’

They continued to coax and promise him that they would not kill him, and so he agreed.

When the animals had gone, he lay down, but only pretended to be asleep. Soon, up crept the inkalimeva and into the kraal he went, and started to lick the fat.

‘Hi! shouted the hare, ‘Leave the fat alone.’

The inkalimeva realized that he should make friends with this wakeful fellow and in a little while, they were chatting and playing games.

‘You could tie my tail to anything and I could always escape,’ boasted the hare.
‘You could do that with mine too, I have a fine tail,’ responded the inkalimeva.

‘Let us see then,’ said the hare. The inkalimeva agreed, and in a moment the hare had tied him fast.
When he saw the inkalimeva could not escape, the hare took his club and killed him.

He then took the inkalimeva’s tail, which was delicious, and ate it all, except for a little bit which he could not manage.
This he hid in the kraal fence.

Then he called loudly: ‘The fat belonging to the animals has been eaten by the inkalimeva.’

The anxious animals came running, but how relieved they were when they saw the fat safe and the inkalimeva lying dead.

They asked the hare for the tail, which by rights belonged to the chief.

The hare replied, ‘The one I killed did not have any tail.’

‘How can there be an inkalimeva without a tail?’ they said in disbelief.

They began to search and at length found the piece of tail in the fence.
When the chief heard that the hare had eaten his royal portion he was very angry. ‘Bring him to me,’ he ordered. ‘So that I could punish him!’

But by this time the hare was long gone!

You can find more African tales and myths on http://www.gateway-africa.com/stories/

Robbie and Michael Cheadle are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series and Robbie Cheadle is the author of Silly Willy goes to Cape Town

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71 thoughts on “African Art Part 3: Botswana

  1. Hi Robbie. Botswana is top of my list for places to visit. My sister and her husband went on holiday there about 15 years ago and still maintain that it is the best holiday that they have ever been on and they go on holiday somewhere in Africa or overseas every year. African folktales are good illusrations of African culture.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fun tale (of a tail). I thought it was going to be like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, but it is quite different.
    I enjoyed finding out a little more about Botswana. Quite a few years ago I read all (or most) of the Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency stories by Alexander McCall Smith. I really enjoyed them but wondered if there was an resemblance to life in Botswana in his stories.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Clever hare 🙂
    I have to admit I’m unfamiliar with the term inkalimeva and haven’t had much luck with Google. I do love old folktales though and regional fables. This was great, Robbie!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is a great post Robbie and so helpful for us to learn about and understand such a beautiful region. The art pieces are so real like. You are blessed to be so aware of the culture and we are blessed to be recipients of that awareness.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love that Botswana has so much land dedicated to parks and wildlife. What a treasure for the country and its future. And the doll is beautiful, Robbie. I was immediately taken by the lovely pose. The story… yikes. Lots of dead animals! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Diana. This is one of my favourite African dolls from one of my favourite African countries. Both Botswana and Namibia have made great strides in protecting their wildlife and national parks. Some of the stories are a bit grim but they are interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Brilliant tale Robbie. As you said in one of the comments.. so like Brer Rabbit which was brought to the plantations by Africans – so no doubt transplanting their own folk tales in their new land. I find Africa endlessly fascinating and love these articles you do.

    Liked by 1 person

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