I wanted to understand the traditional and historical value of land in Xhosa culture. There are two ways of getting this information. You can speak to the people that occupy the land. Or you can speak to the people in charge of the land.
I met Prince Ngonyama of Pondoland whilst we were staying in Qunu. After I explained to him what information I need he organised that I follow the right steps in order to meet the Chiefs and Elders of the Pondoland Royal Council.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
We had to drive to Mthatha to go and pick up the Princess, who is also the secretary of the Royal Council, so that she can set up a meeting with the elders and chiefs of Pondoland for us.
I have never witnessed so much roadkill on a stretch of road.
When we arrived at the house of the Princess we met her parents and asked their blessing so that she can come with us. During this meeting a drunk man walked in acting like he had a injured hip. Prince Ngonyama forbid him to speak to us. The next moment a chicken walked in, stared at everyone and left.
The labola one has to pay to meet members of the Council are two bottles of whiskey and two sheep. I could afford to buy the whiskey, but not the sheep.
After a two hour conversation with the Princess back in Qunu I could convince her that I do not disrespect their tradition for not buying the sheep, but that I simply can not afford it.
The next day we traveled to Port St Johns with the Princess to meet the Royal Council. From here the confusion began.
Sean, Sipho and myself sat on a little school bench in the sun for about three hours. I changed from white to pink. I regret not learning how to speak Xhosa. I knelt down on the ground and made an offering of whiskey. I explained the project at least three times over. I heard my name, Meneer de Wet, in the conversation, but could not understand why. We were shuffled into our van while they debated amongst themselves.
After the three hours in the sun, the elders gave me their blessing and they were willing to speak to me. There was just one problem. Time. According to the tradition they have to report back to the community about the meeting they had with us and then they can talk to me. They took a photograph with Sean and I, but for some reason they did not want Sipho in the photograph.
After two days of waiting, a new pink look and swerving on the road to avoid another roadkill all we got was a polaroid.