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Chapter 12 - Day 6

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2022

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Summary

MM40/69/1537, MM40/69/1557A, MM40/69/1557B Leg Rattles

We presented the elders with three objects labelled leg rattles. They consist of a set of cocoons held together by two strings perforating their ends, and contain small fragments of ostrich eggshell and stones that produce a noise when the rattle is shaken. The elders identified the first item (MM40/69/1537) as a dance rattle used by their group (figure 12.1). They said the other two rattles (MM40/69/1557A and MM40/69/1557B) are San but not from their group (figures 12.2–12.3). We asked if the cocoons are available in all seasons. We collect them in austral autumn, the elders said, when there is only a little bit of rain. When they collect them, do they eat the larvae, or is it just to make rattles? The larvae inside are edible, they said; we cut them open to take the larvae out, and put them to one side to fry later. They explained that to make a rattle with the cocoons, you dig a small hole in the ground, put the cocoons inside and cover them with wet sand. You bury them for maybe an hour, then you take them out and start to put them together using a rope made from African spear plant (Sansevieria cylindrica) (see chapter 7, figure 7.5). You take one, you make a hole in it, you put in stones, and you go on. Were we correct in thinking that they don’t use only stones, but also the leftover production of the ostrich eggshell beads? Yes, they said. We referred to the rattles we had looked at in Dou Pos village; they included some ostrich eggshell waste and some little pebbles (figure 12.4). We asked if this is something that they do systematically, or if it can be just stone, or just ostrich eggshell. The elders said that in the past people would use only ostrich eggshell. Putting stones in the cocoon is a new thing, and nowadays they are mixed with the eggshell waste because they make a better sound than the ostrich eggshell only. According to Louis Fourie’s notes, ‘Nu-//ein put in eggshell chips, while Hei-//om put in larger stones. Naron only four small light stones, while ≠Ao-//ein mix stone and eggshell chips’. We asked if they use glue to seal the opening.

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Chapter
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San Elders Speak
Ancestral Knowledge of the Kalahari San
, pp. 211 - 236
Publisher: Wits University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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