Friday, January 9, 2015

First ever: remote African tribal elders draw spiritual stories and archetypal dreams.

Two years into the Africa's Undiscovered First Stories (formerly Africa's Undiscovered Myths) Project*, it dawned on me that I could have the elders, shamans, witchdoctors and storytellers do drawings of their spiritual beliefs and archetypal dreams. 

The result became both a tribal event and resulted in some amazing images. Know that most, if not all, had never drawn before. In fact, one older shaman had never held a pencil before. 

Here are just some of the photographs of the artists—usually some spiritual person—and their drawings.

Dogon Tribe, Mali, Africa
My guide/translator and I hiked several hours across dry hills searching for a well-respected Dogon tribe Hogon (shaman) near the village of Koundou Gina. Success. Almost by accident, we found him. After the elderly spiritual leader explained his archetypal dream about what happens to a person after death, he said that his eyesight was too poor to do a drawing. He then asked his assistant to illustrate the after-death experience under the watchful eyes of villagers who gathered to watch.
The Dogon tribe Hogon's assistant, Antabadara, drew this image showing the deceased's relative offering a sacrifice to an Ama (representation of God) fetish with the dead person watching.

 Himba tribe, Namibia, Africa
I was told that Mbahuma Tjiambiru was the most powerful Himba shaman in the entire Epupa Falls area of Namibia. I believe it, even now. Like many shamans around the world, he used a dried gourd as a rhythmic rattle to help enter his trance.  Then his voice changed pitch and he led me on a wondrous trip.     Himba tribe, Epupa Falls area, Namibia, Africa.
Mbahuma Tjiambiru, the most powerful Himba shaman, drew how his deceased uncle entered his toe. Then Mbahuma became a shaman.    Himba tribe, Epupa Falls area, Namibia, Africa.
A dream of the black Mumba snake.    Himba tribe, Epupa Falls area, Namibia, Africa.

  Himba tribe, Namibia, Africa
Kaunyanunwa Tjambiru, the elderly village medicine man,  had never held a pencil in his long life. Since he used the reflection of a shiny butcher-sized knife to help get into a trance, I asked him to draw what he saw. The whole village come out to watch.   Himba tribe, Otuvero area, Namibia, Africa.
Kaunyanunwa Tjambiru held the pencil tightly as he drew what he saw in the shiny butcher-sized knife when he entered a trance. I have no idea what the drawing represents.   Himba tribe, Otuvero area, Namibia, Africa.

 Himba tribe, Namibia, Africa
I spent many hours with David Kavari, a well-known Himba spiritual leader. After explaining many of his dreams, I asked Mr. Kavari to interpret my dream of twelve headless horsemen riding down a steep  hill. Looking worried, he explained that this was a powerful dream of great danger.   Himba tribe, Otuvero area, Namibia, Africa.
The powerful Himba medicine man, David Kavari, drawing of my twelve headless horsemen dream.   Himba tribe, Otuvero area, Namibia, Africa.
San (Bushman) tribe, Namibia, Africa
This is the senior San elder of a village in front of his house near Namibia's Etosha National ParkThe San, also known as Saan, Bushmen or Basarwa, were once proud hunters with incredible tracking skills. In fact, the Namibian government used them as trackers during the most  recent war. Now the Namibian government completely ignores them.        San (Bushmen) tribe, Namibia, Africa.
The San elder drew his image of God above the clouds. So where does this idea that God is up there come from?  San (Bushman) tribe, Namibia, Africa.

San (Bushman) tribe, Namibia, Africa
  According to genetic DNA markers, the San are among the oldest populations on our planet, a fact totally lost on Geelbooi as he draws various dreams. Geelboi's small village in Namibia, like most of Africa's San, is totally ignored by the government.         San (Bushman) tribe, Namibia, Africa.
As if it were a sign of the disconnect with his proud hunting traditional past, Geelbooi dreamed that the devil (on the right in the drawing) told the hunting Bushman that he could kill the nearby cow instead of going further to find a wild animal. The San (Bushmen) were the best trackers and hunters in Namibia and Botswana, if not all of Africa.   San (Bushmen) tribe, Namibia, Africa.
When asked what happens to a dead person after he dies, Geelbooi (pronounced Hilboy) drew the spirit leaving the dead body. He also told me that the deceased person's village had to move to another location to prevent another person from dying soon.    San (Bushman) tribe, Namibia, Africa.
In one of his dreams, Geelbooi saw the moon drop from the sky to earth. When asked what that meant, the dreaming artist replied, "nothing." Interestingly, the moon figures prominently in San myths. My sense was that Goolbooi had lost touch with his tribe's traditional past.    San (Bushman) tribe, Namibia, Africa.
Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa
I visited Senegal's remote Bedik tribe twice. Both times the stories they reported were exactly the same. Here chief Jean Baptiste Keita draws exactly what one of the spirits looks, except he complained that he did not know how to illustrate the feet..  Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.
I was very impressed with the detail drawn by chief Jean Baptiste Keita of one Bedik spirit. Chief Keita explained that they have only one God, but many spirits. Westerners would call them animists.    Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

* Africa's Undiscovered First Stories Project:   For the past 15 years I've been traveling to Africa's most remote tribes to learn from the elders, shamans, witch doctors, chiefs and storytellers about their spiritual stories and archetypal dreams. My eventual goal is to share this information with the world in some faint hope developing a realization that all of our stories come from the same source.

All images copyright ©Janis Miglavs 2015

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