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Behind the masks

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.

Here are some of his stories.

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Chimp tracking – Budongo Forest, Uganda

Twenty five years ago the Government of Uganda took a decision to preserve the Budongo Forest in North West Uganda for man’s closest relatives.

Resident chimp predators, such as lion, were moved to the far side of the Nile River.

In partnership with Jane Goodall, The National Forestry Authority started the long process of habituating a community of chimpanzee for tourism, as a way to finance the forest’s conservation.

Since then tourist dollars have helped the authorities to teach villagers alternative ways of obtaining food protein.  They now farm pigs and chicken.  As a result snaring in the forest has been reduced by 90%.

Chimp Tracking is a great experience.  Watch the video here.




Mapungubwe: Rock of Sacred Leaders


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.


(c) University of Pretoria
(c) University of Pretoria


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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood …

Memorable people in history are those who have forged a new path, those who have dared to take the road less traveled. Rod Cassidy is one such person.

 In a country beset by political instability Cassidy and his family have set up an ecotourism operation in the Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve in the Central African Republic (CAR).

It’s a move that is pioneering and brave.

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Holy of Holies – Driekopseiland

There are times in life when a seemingly insignificant experience lives with you long after the event. This ‘thing’ takes on a life of its own and sits on your shoulder tapping away asking for recognition. It happened to me not so long ago.

A visit to an unique rock art site, called Driekopseiland, revealed a level of spirituality in the First People of Africa that I don’t believe has been appreciated before. What follows is a testimony.

It’s hard not to feel the power of the place when you first step on the smooth bed of the Riet River. And when you start to discover the etchings – 3500 of them concentrated over a hundred square metres – you realise that this was one very important location to the people who scratched at the rock 1300 years ago.

As one discovery leads you onto another and another you get drawn into its mystery as surely as if you were in the curve of its vortex.

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