Stories as Performance

Many Haiseb stories have been collected but mainly in text and not using film and sound.

Stories carry more than words from the past.

Here we experience storytellers demonstrating how Haiseb moves and sings. 

It is impossible to know whether or  not young people will continue to keep  the spirit of Haiseb alive. When his signs are not recognised, his presence felt and his ways not known, Haiseb’s movements and  sounds may well be forgotten.

 Haeseba ||ō, !huba ǂha

Haiseb is dead, the land is free

Handrethe (Gaoxas) Guriras and Lisa Gorabes Masura with Suro Ganuses. At Kamanjab.

Handrethe: My grandmother told me that Haiseb put rocks under ǂhuis trees [Bechamia] and he made for himself death when still alive. The people said “no, we the people thought him dead and we buried him there”. The people say we cannot eat the berries here [under this tree] because we buried Haiseb here, so the people moved to another side.

When the people moved Haiseb woke up and they heard the sound of him eating berries. “Who could be eating?” they said. When Haiseb heard the people talking he crept back in his hole.

Because Haiseb is death the people were pleased with his death. “Haiseb is death the land is now free for us” they sang.

Suro: People were under the pressure of Haiseb. He was a KIng and they were under him.

Handrethe:Haiseb told the people “I am sick. Don’t touch me. I don’t know if I live or die. Bury me under the tree. We cannot eat the berries close to Haiseb or we get sick”. During the day Haiseb ate the berries and in the nights the people were singing and clapping hands:

Tita Haise da ||o tsî  ǂûna mû tsî go ||ō !nada

Haeseba ||ō !huba ǂha

Haiseb go ||ō freyba he ta go Haiseb go ||ō

We are pleased at Haiseb’s death. The land is now free.

Elsie Tjihahura, at Kamanjab

Note the bent arms and pointed fingers and the flick of the skirt at the end – all characteristics of Haiseb dances.

Ellink ||Naobes


Augustus ||Naobeb

                                                                                                          Haiseb and the Bees

                                                                                                   Translator: Mariane !Owos oas                                                                                                 

Ellinck ||Naobeb telling a story of Haiseb and the bees. Near Uis.

The story in the film is an excerpt from the lightly edited version translated below.

It is an adaptation of a well known story about Haiseb and the Bees. It ends with Haiseb pretending to be dead and being buried under a tree, but he is not really dead and climbs out at night and dances and sings under the fruit tree, at which point he is discovered. 

The singing and dancing around the tree is what features in the film above. It is a theme that reoccurs in films on this site. In ‘the Bees’ Haiseb gives away his identity by rejoicing in his deception.

When telling this story Ellink ||Naobes began with a different brief story that  mirrors the typical Bees story in the way Haiseb covers his sore and festering scalp with a cap. This brief introductory story seems to be about Haiseb bringing trouble on himself because of his silly shyness. It speaks of wider forms of correct household behaviour between men and women.

Erika Ganuses and Suro Ganuses (bottom right) of Sesfontein demonstrate some of the sing-song elements of Haiseb tales. Suro has been a great friend and the translation and knowledge behind my research for many years. 

Haiseb and the Bees

Haiseb came to the women and while there he got a girlfriend. She cooked rice and gives him a plate of food to eat but he will not eat in front of her. She asks “why are you not eating in front of me?” But he does not want to eat. One morning the woman goes somewhere while the pot is on the fire, the rice pot. When the woman is away Haiseb put the rice in his cap. While he is doing it the woman comes back and Haiseb puts the hat on his head but it is hot because it was in the fire and he cannot sit while the woman takes the pot out of the fire. But the woman was near and he did not have a chance to take off the cap as the water runs out and it is hot. Then the woman says “take the cap off your head because you are getting warm and the water is running. What is going on?”. When he takes off the cap then his head was already well cooked and had red sores. It was his shyness that brought him there because he was getting shy to eat before the woman.

Haiseb went to where the Bees are. They are making  honey. When he came there  the Bees poured water for him. Haiseb says “don’t give me that much just the small one”. He thought it was the normal water. But when he tasted it he tastes honey, so he says, “I am on my way, but a man will come after me with a small black dog. You have to pour for him the big honey water”.  Haiseb then took out one eye and went back to the bees with the dog, and they gave him a big cup of the honey just as he had asked for, the children of the Lord, that is the water of the bees. 

When the Bees give him the big honey he sleeps there, drinks and sleeps and drinks and sleeps.  While he was doing that the Bees moved to get the ingredients to make it again. Then he sleeps in between the mountain and then he sings, “the brothers and sisters, they see the same man again and they thought he was another one. They pour him the big one water. He was enjoying himself drinking this honey of the Bees and sleeping between the mountains. But a Bee hears this song of Haiseb and says “listen, listen to this. This  is the Haiseb who we give all our honey to. Haiseb, what are you saying, eh?”.

Now when the Bees hear this they come together and bite [sting] Haiseb. The one that is biting takes the stomach, the /nui !gah…where your food is sitting inside. After all the bites Haiseb  collapses and the bees leave him alone. While they are gone Haiseb cut [off] those things which are outside [ bee sting sores] with a stone knife and mixes them together with his stomach and he goes with it to the house and feeds it to his household.  It was very fat and he cooked it. When the wives arrived he said:  “I get for you the dassie, the fat dassie and we have to clean it and make it well done”. The first wife asks, “what kind of meat is this, which has only the things inside…the duodenum, I will not eat it?”. This was the first wife of Haiseb who would not eat it.  The others, the second wife, third and fourth, they eat and Haiseb comes and says “Ah leave me alone, why don’t you allow me to touch you because you were eating, after all, eating my duodenum right now.” “No, you are lying” they reply.  Haiseb says “go and take the things inside the duodenum, the gagaba [stool?]. He takes the things inside, the gagaba and show them that they eat the duodenum of it. Then the bees bite him on top of the head. Then he takes the cover [skin] of the dassie and he makes the cap so that the women will not see the sores on his head. He covered the sores with the skin of the dassie. And  that cover he put on  was wet, not dried in the sun and not smelling well. It had those small white things that walk around (maggots). Those things went into the head of the Haiseb and he could not take his cap off again. Those things grow in his head.

The women decide that they have to take  off Haiseb’s cap so the women tell Haiseb’s little boy, “if we head out today you have to sit on the back of your father and you will get his hat off”. That was the decision of the first wife. Then the other women say “go ride on your sisters back” and then, “no, no, no go to your mothers back”. Then the father says “come my child let me carry you”. And Haiseb carries the little one on his back.

When they come back they brought food, the natural food like /naieen, /naran  !airon, n!aron, those are the things if the rain comes then the trees are getting those things for the people to eat. 

The people then  sit under the shadow of the big tree and that tree has the fruit they call !nuis.While they are sitting there Haiseb says  “springbok will go and stay there that side, and then this side the kudu will stay, and this side the gemsbok will stay and the other side the  zebras will stay and the ostrich the other side. That is the words of the Haiseb.”

After he finished Haiseb said “I will sit here under this tree”. When he tried to put the child down the boy came down with the hat. It fell down then Hiaseb decides again that “the thing that have fallen down,  there must be sons [?], some of them must become sons, some of them must become stones, some of them must become trees and some of them must become the different types of the things. You must bury me here under this tree. You have to cover me, but only my legs up to my waist the rest must be outside”. Then they buried him under the tree and went to stay at that far mountain. Then Haiseb gets up and he is doing  the singing and dancing, it was the song of the Haiseb. When he get up in the night he was singing [as per the film on the previous page]. That was the song of the Haiseb and then the women came when he was dancing. Then he stayed and he was dancing, and the people came, children were crying out  “come, come and see”. And the people were hiding behind the tree and the Haiseb is dancing and singing. The women then punish him because he is lying to them and Haiseb runs away. The women say lets go home, and Haiseb comes. The people say, “is it the Haiseb that is coming now?”.

CL:Would it be okay if we told these stories…

A: It is very nice, we enjoy it.

CL: May  we use the film, show it and maybe stick it on the internet [this involves long discussion about the internet with which they are familiar]

A. Yes it is fine and if the come and ask for her, then she will dance and they will have to buy the cool drink. If the other people come again, if you put it on the internet, if they will come and the others will get for her the cool drink and she will dance. it is fun for her.