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