Expat Life, Travel

When in Rome

It’s always good manners to try to respect and – when possible – embrace any local traditions in your temporary home country. But what would YOU do if you were asked to join in the NokNok Celebration with Nzeddele tribe?

At the end of the summer months South Africa’s little known Nzeddele Tribe gives thanks to the NokNok tree. Small communities are built close to NokNok groves, as the fruit is fatty and highly nutritious. In the summer months the fruit is plucked straight from the trees to be sliced, diced and enjoyed immediately.  Any bruised or excess fruit is preserved, by baking hard dry loaves, forming the staple of the Nzeddele winter store cupboard.

The bark of the NokNok tree flakes off in large chunks that are used as roofing material on the tradition homes and as it is evergreen it provides shade and shelter to villagers throughout the year. Plenty to celebrate. We have been invited by one of Mr Incredible’s work colleague’s to join this year’s celebration, which is very exciting. However, it is not entirely clear to us whether we are to be observers or full participants in the Tree Ceremony.

My understanding is that there will be a lot of singing (not my forte, but as we don’t speak the language, I believe we will be exempted). Each village member must approach the tree, wearing what can only be described as a buttock-revealing garment. Derrieres are shaken and they sing “Umbo NokNok oolarub bisham”. Loosely translated it means NokNok tree thanks for my buttocks. I know. I tried not to raise an eyebrow and I’m desperately hoping not to bare a buttock either.

Apparently the unusual lyrics are derived from the fact that the fruit enables the villagers to lay down a layer of (buttock) fat before the winter months. Then, in its loaf form, the NokNok fruit continues to sustain the Nzeddele when the landscape becomes dry and barren.

When thanks has been given to the trees there is a second and slightly bizarre Rat Swinging Ceremony. The rats are the scourges of the NokNok tree, gnawing at and damaging its roots to make their nests. I don’t quite understand how it works, but the Village Healer takes a live rat (I’m not sure whether it’s sedated? I hope it’s sedated…), he whirls it round and round his head until it loses consciousness.

Once unconscious, the rat is then killed and buried at the foot of the tree. The belief is that the rat offering (corpse?) will deter other rats from nesting by that tree and thus protects the roots and therefore the entire tree and in turn the primary food source of the villagers. Although I’m relieved not to have to touch a live rat or consume a dead one, now that we have been measured for our outfits I nervously await their arrival. I’ll let you know how it all goes….

Rome’s Colosseum – a very pixelly photo of an old photo

*Disclaimer: No fictional trees or tribes were harmed in the writing of this post. No rats were swung, killed or eaten and absolutely no bottoms were bared. Any similarity to any people, places or customs past, present, or future is entirely coincidental.

Happy April Fools!

2 thoughts on “When in Rome”

  1. Ah,ah, ha, ha……I am always VERY aware of April 1st, as that was the day we got engaged (45 years ago). But it wasn’t until AFTER midday that we bought the ring, both having a half day that day, at H Samuels in Hereford, and then going to the Geriatric Day Unit where B’s mother was in charge to show her. Her reaction of joy was moving and wonderful, the best start our engagement could have had. Good to have an excuse to share this with you. H. XXX


  2. That’s a lovely story, thank you for sharing. I’m guessing I didn’t catch you out then? I did read this post to Mr I before publishing and enjoyed watching the utter confusion/panic as he tried to remember being invited to a Tree Ceremony with the Nzeddele.


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