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Saturday, September 30, 1995

Africa Journal - Cave Paintings - Malaki's Law

September 30, 1995

Man Astonished at Snake with Impala Head

Malaki’s Law

The guidebook says this is the place to see cave paintings, so we opt out of the game drive for a historical tour. Malaki, a local Ndebele, is our guide. He sets the tone immediately by requesting that we not point at any of the hills. Some of the hills are sacred to the Ndebele, and to point shows lack of respect. Malaki impresses us with his depth of knowledge and deep respect for the traditions of the area and his people.

We begin with a short history lesson at a historical marker commemorating an Ndebele victory over a British expedition sent to quell rebellious tribes. We then climb a steep grade, clamoring over rocks, to a cave with a spectacular view of the valley below. 

The inside of the cave is covered with paintings thousands of years old. Malaki lectures with a quiet authority for almost an hour, about the cave, it’s history, the traditions, theories about the paintings and the rituals that surrounded them. By the time we go back down the hill, we are convinced that the failure to respect the traditions and ceremonies of the cave are the reason for the drought.

He takes us to the home of a man who has built a hut using the traditional materials and the ‘old ways’, which rapidly accelerating disappearance he laments. Then into a very small but bustling village where Sigrid takes photographs of the local people and their activities. She always asks permission to take their photos. A few ask for money, so she does not shoot them, but more are simply pleased to be asked, or ask to have a copy of the photos. We agree to send copies back to Malaki to distribute.

Back to the lodge for lunch and shelter from the afternoon sun. We rejoin Malaki’s tour at 3:00, but interrupt the historical narrative for a little rhino hunting. Malaki’s technique is to climb a strategically located hill, scan the valley for the rhinos, then drive/hike to them. Armin and I climb the first hill with Malaki, and search the valley until the car horn below tells us that Sigrid and the LA couple in the land-rover are impatient. The second hill Malaki climbs himself. He appears to run straight up the the side of the hill. A short while later he runs straight back down. From the bottom, it looks like the kind of physics defying maneuver you might see in a cartoon.

Still no rhinos, so we view more cave paintings, then finish the day with a sunset tour of Cecil Rhodes grave at the place Rhodes called World’s View. The spectacular 360 degree view of Zimbabwe is overwhelming. It is clear why a man of Rhodes ambition loved the spot and requested to be buried there. From there he must have felt the master of all he could see. 

Rhodes Grave

That night we dine with Malaki, Armin - a German living in South Africa, a couple comprised of a Brit married to a French woman living in Switzerland, and a couple from southern California. A very enjoyable dinner filled with good wine, good humor and storytelling. During dinner it became clear to me that Japanese tourists are bringing the world closer together. We feel a real sense of camaraderie with all except the California couple, which of course is due to the lack of any commonality of life experience or any other real basis for communication.

Malaki does not drink the wine but a concoction of his own invention: half Castle Beer / half Coca-Cola. Should you ever want to order one of these, you should do so by ordering it under the name given by it’s inventor - The Malaki Special. He deserves it.

Someone asks what I do for a living, and when I say software, the Europeans want to talk about Bill Gates. Well, he is  not my favorite subject, but he is a tremendous American sucess story, and it is important to be sure the Europeans understand just how great his accomplishments really are, so I express my admiration for all he has accomplished despite being only four foot six inches tall. I am astonished to find that they are completely unaware of this fact. The french woman mumbles something in French about Napoleon, and I agree. We all drink a toast to Bill.

We also spend some time discussing the logistics of managing multiple wives, one of the traditional ‘Old Ways’ staunchly defended by Malaki, who has two. He sums it up by proclaiming what will henceforth be known as:
Malaki’s Law: 
"One wife - many problems. Two wives - no problems."


NOTE FROM THE FUTURE: This is a back-post / cross-post from my first on-line journal/blogging effort - a journal of our Southern Africa Tour in 1995. Originally posted to an abandoned domain (, the term "blog" had not yet entered the parlance. I am migrating the original posts to this blog. Links to the original journal Date Index or Africa Tour Home Page will likely eventually disappear. The images from the original post were graphics and screen caps from video which I am leaving in it's low-rez glory for historical integrity. My intent is to also add some of Sigrid's higher quality scanned photos to these blog back-posts.  The difference in images should be obvious.

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