Masks are a well known feature of African culture. They’re used in many circumstances and in psychological terms represent the persona of the wearer. As such they’re a language on their own, communicating to the viewer what is being said.
In Uganda a young man, called Bright Niwagaba, explained the meanings behind some of the masks he was selling. He said they were made and worn by Pygmies, Africa’s forest dwelling hunter-gatherers, and represent everyday political and social events as well conquest and subjugation by other tribes.
Most conscientious travellers have asked themselves at one time or another what is the etiquette around taking photos of locals in the places they visit. I’ve always gone by the rule of ‘do unto others as you would have done unto you.’
I was intrigued to hear Adam Welz of WildAid speak out on a pivotal point in the rise of demand for rhino horn in Vietnam. He said a rumour started that General Giap, a general in the Vietnam People’s Army, owed his long life to the use of rhino horn. I think there is more to it.
It was Heritage Day and full moon. And then someone reminded me that it was also the spring equinox, the time of cosmic equilibrium. Well that did it. A magical veil drew down as I stepped into the past, and the Land of Molten Metal – Mapungubwe.