The Domesticated Big 5: Amajuba Style

 

Blog-Challenge-2016This entry’s prompt for the Blogging Abroad Blog Contest: Top 5 (aka a condensed set of community highlights).  In Southern Africa, Safari Companies have a promotion called “Big 5” which refers to 5 large species of game: Cape Water Buffalo, Rhino, Lion, Elephant, and Leopard. It is a source of excitement to spot all 5 animals on a game drive. As an exchange student in Botswana, I saw 4 out of the 5 in the wild(minus the elusive lion). Yet as my time continues in South Africa, I realize that animal excitement does not require expensive stays at a national park. The unsupervised livestock of Amajuba keep me plenty  entertained.

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A blurry photo of the big 5 (minus elephants, those stamps were already used) as illustrated by the South African Post Office…just to prove that I am not making the concept up!

In honor of our neighboring municipality’s seat Utrecht and its designation as the only town in South Africa completely surrounded by game park (alas with no Big 5 there for the sake of Utrecht’s residents), here is one of Casa de Izilokazane’s activity options: game viewing (Amajuba edition). Presenting: izinkomo, izinkhuku, izimvu, izimbuzi, and izinja.

Casa de Izilokazane offers prime game viewing for the Amajuba “Big 5.” We guarantee our guests will at least see 3 if not all 5 on the list.

Izikomo or Cows

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Typical life in rural South Africa. One day I walk to work and a cow is tied up next to the gate.

South Africa competes for the title of “Beef Country of the world.” The amaZulu love cows and consume most body parts including tripe (the stomach) and livers (an excellent source of iron with a bloody taste). Cows are also the heart of a traditional practice called lobola. Common in many indigenous cultures of Southern Africa, lobola is a bride price where a man provides a certain number of cows to his hopeful father in law.

Best time for viewing: Cows are present year round but calving season is in the summer (January-March) when green grass is readily available.

(Side note: calving season depends on the area. At site 1.0 calving season with its nocturnal births was in the winter from June-September. In the Drakensburg there is a parasite in sprouting grass that kills young calves. Even though the grass is sparsely availably in the winter, the calves would build enough immunity by the time spring hit).

Prime Locations: Any place with grass.

Izinkukhu/ chickens

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Right outside Casa de Izilokazane’s windows. In the late morning our building’s shadows provide an oasis from the South African heat.

Chickens are the best source of protein with meat and amaqanda/eggs!

Prime Locations: Chickens are free spirits and wander through out Amajuba’s bucolic terrain. Ideal settings are blanketed in corn kernels (Our Gogo can provide some if you are pining for a chicken encounter).They are the only animal our host family domesticates on our compound.

Best time for viewing: Anytime, according to our Hosts, “Goats, sheep, and chickens birth like humans.”

Izimvu/Sheep

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I am cheating here because the izimvu were elusive this past week. This is from site 1.0 in the Drakensburg.

The amaZulu use sheep practically for food and wool in the cooler Battlefields regions. Utrecht is also a major producer of wool in KZN. However an interesting use for sheep is a common prize for amaZulu dance competitions because sheep are the least expensive animal to obtain (although if funding is great goats or cows are the first choice). The winning team kills the sheep and enjoys mutton.

Prime Locations: the rolling hills covered in luscious grass (and often they trail behind cow herds).

Izimbuzi/goats

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My corner of Schnizteland’s taxi stop for Duke City, occupied by izimbuzi. Immediately prior to this photo, the izimbuzi were engaged in a passionate albeit inconvenient (for everyone else) head-butting competition.

The clever goats are important in isiZulu culture, as they are the only animal who can communicate with the ancestors. They are traditionally slaughtered at ceremonies called umsebenzis where families communicate with the ancestors. At Casa de Izilokazane, the adjacent rondavel is the ancestor house with a small shrine. Space is limited for our large host family and people live in the rondavel full time. Yet in the event of an umsebenzi they would offer the goat inside the rondavel before cooking it for the guests.

Prime Locations: Everywhere. Goats are the real mayors of Amajuba, they own the street. Their favorite place to exert power is at the local taxi rank for Duke City, where they frequently strut in front of moving vehicles.

Izinja or dogs

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A typical February izinja scene, scrambling for food at the taxi rank.

As my former host uncle said, dogs are security systems not pets in rural South Africa. Casa de Izilokazane is not liable for all potential events that could perpetuate if you touch said dogs.

Best time for viewing: February. The isiZulu word for February “uNhololnja” means “dogs in heat” and this time of the year, dogs all over KZN are desperately trying to procreate. Come see females devouring every scrap of food insight and hear lover’s squabbles at 11 PM!

Prime locations: any trash can in a resident’s yard, especially after dinner.

Guests who spot all 5 animals win a pair of earplugs and eye mask! If the sightings occur at night or in the workplace, they receive a paid meal (their choice of South Africa’s chain restaurants) in Duke City!

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Imbuzi butt, scuttling out the door after being caught red-handed in my organization’s building. This was my first work day in Amajuba.

 

*extra isiZulu cultural note: You may have noticed that all of the animal names start with “izin” or “Izim” This is because they belong to noun classes for plural animate objects (these classes are primarily composed of animals but as in every language there are exceptions to the rule). To talk about one animal the vocabulary is as follows:

Chicken: inkukhu       

Cow: Inkomo

Dog: Inja

Sheep: Imvu

Goat: Imbuzi

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