A lesson in positivity from Lake Fundudzi
Story and photos by Louise de Waal
“Lake Fundudzi was created by a massive landslide about 20,000 years ago, blocking the flow of the Mutale river and slowly but surely creating this expansive lake” says Nelson Maphaha, our guide and camp host at Fundudzi Culture Camp. “The scar in the landscape is still clearly visible, once the mist clears”.
We stop well above the lake, where Nelson starts the sacred narrative by explaining how to honour the ancestors. We turn our backs to the lake and awkwardly look through our legs, while Nelson greets the custodians of the lake in Tshivenḓa. I secretly wonder if Nelson is bamboozling us tourists, but quickly realise he is completely sincere. We repeat the custom at the shores of the lake, but this time spitting on a small stone and throwing it into the lake through our legs.
Storytelling is a deep-rooted tradition in African cultures and a means to communicate legends and beliefs to the next generation. Nelson makes himself comfortable on one of the boulders at the lake’s shore, before he starts his account of the sacred Lake Fundudzi.
Nelson talks about the Vhatavhatsindi clan, who believe their ancestors are linked to lake’s water. How they found white pythons and white crocodiles in the water that gave the lake its mystical powers. He describes the Tshitudwane (half-people), who occupy the lake, but have no ill intentions.
He speaks of Nwali (the god/creator), who lives in a nearby cave and occasionally comes down to the lake to bath and play the drum on three large egg-shaped rocks. He recounts the times before the arrival of the Europeans into the region, when ancestral gifts included the sacrificial offering of virgin girls.
The stories make me wonder how much is lost in translation, but at the same time captivate my imagination and make me want to come back for the annual rituals still performed at the lake. When local people thank their ancestors for the rains and plentiful harvests, express gratitude for all the positives that happened over the year, and ask for continued good spirits. What a beautiful notion.
Visitors to Lake Fundudzi are invited to stay at Fundudzi Camp.