BaVenda of South Africa: How Animals Got Their Color

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Following is a story from the BaVenda of South Africa, on how the meerkat conducts his business in the animal world.

wildlife, South Africa, deserts

The color of all the animals is said to have been painted on by the meerkat. — BaVenda Myth

South Africa, Bantu Tribe

A BaVenda homestead photographed by A. M. Duggan-Cronin at Mbilwe prior to 1928. Duggan-Cronin wrote: The work of cutting and erecting the poles of the hut is done by men, the plastering is done by women, as is the thatching. The little wall around the veranda is usually very skillfully ornamented, with various colors obtained from the different-colored earths in the region. From Ezakwantu.com.

The color of all the animals is said to have been painted on by the meerkat. The meerkat said to the animals, “If anyone will kill a buck and bring me the meat, I will paint color on him.”

The hyena heard him, so he went and killed a buck; he ate all the meat himself and took the bones to the meerkat.

The meerkat said “Lie down.” The hyena knelt down, and the meerkat painted ugly marks on him, saying, “If anyone cheats me, I do the same to him.”

The leopard went out hunting and killed a buck and brought it to the meerkat unskinned. The meerkat told him to kneel down and painted him a beautiful color, saying, “If anyone keeps his word with me, I will do the same to him.”

The story is finished.

Venda, South Africa

A BaVenda Woman. Photo from Hilton T. on Flickr.

The BaVenda (also known as Venda) are a Bantu tribe living in Southern Africa. Venda culture centers on a vibrant mythical belief system, reflected in their artistic style. Water is an important theme in their desert existence within the region of the Northern Transvaal where they have traditionally practiced ancient rainmaking rituals, thought to carry on the legacy of the long disappeared society of Great Zimbabwe.

Published in African Myths and Tales, Edited By Susan Feldman, New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1963,  from H.A. Stayt, The Bavenda, London: Oxford University Press, under the auspices of the International African Institute, 1931.

 

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Jack Eidt

About Jack Eidt

Writer, urban theorist, and environmental advocate, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion - Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Planners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com.