Friday, 24 April 2015

The broken string

Recited under the rising full moon by Janette Deacon

Lament sung by Xaa-ttin, Dia!kwaiŋ’s father, after the death of his friend, the magician and rain-maker !Nuin|kui-ten, who died from the effects of a shot he had received when going about, by night, in the form of a lion.

People were those who

broke for me the string.


The place became like this to me,

On account of it,

Because the string was that which broke for me.*


The place does not feel to me,

As the place used to feel to me,

On account of it.


The place feels as if it stood open for me,

Because the string has broken for me.


The place does not feel pleasant to me,

On account of it

*Now that the ‘string is broken’, the former ‘ringing sound in the sky’ is no longer heard by the singer, as it had been in the magician’s lifetime.

From: McGregor Poetry Anthology 2013

Published by African Sun Press in association with the McGregor Poetry Festival

ISBN number 978-0-620-62302-5

The Poet

Janette Deacon is an archaeologist with a special interest in the history, beliefs and rock art of the |Xam Bushmen who taught their language to Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd in Cape Town in the 1870s. See for the full texts. Janette was co-organiser with Pippa Skotnes of a conference on the Bleek Archive in 2011 and has published several books and articles on the |Xam to celebrate their contribution to South African languages and cultural diversity.

Previously published:

Dia!kwaiŋ: The boken string. Text and footnote from Specimens of Bushman Folklore by W.H.I. Bleek and L.C. Lloyd, pages 236-237, George Allen, London, 1911.

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