Friday, September 13, 2013

SA: Two Parables

Being a good aunt, I dutifully made one last stop before leaving Johannesburg, for souvenirs at the African Craft Market at Rosebank Mall. It consists of two levels of small stalls in a primitive-looking "wooden" building sandwiched between the old mall (built in the 1990s) and the new mall that will be finished this year. Outside, young people in "traditional" costumes dance for tips from white tourists. I skipped the display of "authentic" African culture and made a beeline for the two stalls I had determined had the gifts I wanted to get.

I had cased the joint the previous weekend, on my first day in Jo-burg, wandering up and down the rows. The sellers cajoled and sweet talked me, offering special deals "just today" and "just for you, Sissy." I demurred, repeating over and and over again that I was just looking. There was a lot to look at: stone and wood carvings of animals and and people, masks, jewelry of various kinds, batik fabrics, and beaded doohickeys. Lots of elephants, giraffes, lions, rhinos, hippopotamuses, and zebras. It turns out not everything it made by the sellers; sometimes they source things from neighboring countries. One seller insisted I take a heart-shaped keychain of red beads, in the expectation that I would come back and buy something.

I liked the little wooden frog noise-makers, but I was afraid I didn't have any room in my luggage, as I had picked up a memoir during the conference. As it was, I had my eye on some little stone figurines for my niece and nephew, and a batik table runner for myself. Hopefully I didn't botch the haggling over the prices too badly.

After I got home, I made up little gift packages for the kids. Each one had a figurine, a few coins (Rand), and a short story I adapted from South-African Folk-Tales, collected and published by James A. Hone├┐, MD, in 1910. I want to share the parables with you:

There was just one "string" attached to the gifts: that they call
and tell me what they thought after opening their gifts, which they did.
The Man and the Snake
A Dutchman saw Snake lying under a large stone. Snake asked for his help, but once she was free, she said, "Now I shall eat you." The Man answered, "That is not right. Let us hear what Hare says." But Hare agreed with Snake.
So the Man asked Hyena, who also agreed with Snake.
In despair, the Man went to Jackal.
Now Jackal was very wise. He acted as if he did not believe the story and wanted to see whether the Man could really lift the stone. Snake lay down, and the Man put the stone again over her.
"Now leave her there," said Jackal.

Rooster and Jackal

It is said Jackal once chased Rooster and caught him. Rooster said, "Please, pray first before you kill me, as the missionaries do."

Jackal asked, "How do they pray? Tell me."

"They fold their hands when praying," said Rooster. Jackal folded his hands and prayed. But Rooster said, "You shouldn’t look around like that. You should close your eyes." So Jackal did; and Rooster flew away, laughing, "You rogue! Are you sure you know how to pray? "

There sat Jackal, speechless, because he had been outdone.

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