A few weeks ago I watched a female leopard resting high up in a dead Brown Ivory tree. In the tree was nestled a leopard orchid and in that sat the Ndzanzeni female leopard, the last female in the lineage of the original Mother Leopard. The moment struck me as momentous. Imagine all the myriad elements that had to come together for that moment to exist. The ancient termite mound that would have first populated that piece of land, then from it a tree that could be a few hundred years old. In that very specific tree sat the last relative of a female leopard that ultimately forged the relationship between humans and animals here at Londolozi. She is a leopard who has shown incredible resilience and survived despite her recent grievous injury. Quite fortuitously, the leopard orchid she sat in was flowering, which in itself is symbolic because Londolozi’s logo is designed to represent a leopard orchid flower, the face of a leopard and a butterfly, a symbol of renewal.
Today is Reconciliation Day in South Africa and this moment mentioned above is a prime example of the levels of reconciliation that have occurred here at Londolozi throughout her history. A reconciliation of land, people and the animals.
This female is a success story all in herself, being born as a single cub to the Dudley Riverbank female in early 2012.
In the South African context, today is a day that is hugely important considering our divisive past. The power of reconciliation though extends far beyond the South African, African or even human context for that matter. It is about the restoration of friendly relations for all.
The holiday came into effect in South Africa in 1994 after the end of apartheid, with the intention of fostering reconciliation and national unity for the country. The date was chosen because it was significant to both Afrikaner and African cultures. Nelson Mandela and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission hoped that by choosing this day, the various ethnic groups would be inspired to work on healing the damage done by apartheid.
The origins of the celebration for the Afrikaners goes back to the Day of the Vow. The Day of the Vow was a religious holiday commemorating the Voortrekker victory over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River. At this particular battle in 1838, a small contingent of Voortrekkers was attacked by an army of Zulus numbering in the tens of thousands. The Zulus were however defeated and the event became a rallying point for the development of Afrikaner nationalism, culture and identity.
For African people, the date has been significant as one that was used for multiple peaceful protests against racial injustice throughout apartheid. It is also the anniversary date of the establishment of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). This was a more militant arm of the African National Congress (ANC), introduced when the peaceful efforts of passive protest and resistance against apartheid proved unsuccessful.
At Londolozi, we see the definition of reconciliation as a bridging of gaps between the land, humans, and animals too. At the moment, the world needs this focus on reconciliation more than ever before.
For us, Reconciliation Day is ultimately about a coming together. People will always come from a variety of different belief systems, backgrounds, preferences, religions and ways of being in the world but ultimately we hope that we can look beyond these to find our commonality. What matters is that we are all creatures of this planet. Ultimately we all belong to the same mother, Mother Earth.
This is something we see at Londolozi in our village where people from diverse backgrounds live, work and play together as one unit, one family. And we see it too with our guests who come from all over the world to experience the melting pot that is Londolozi. The common thread that draws us all together is our desire be close to mother nature; to be with the land and the animals in peace and presence. It is this incredibly special place that helps us to gain perspective and shows us ways that we can make our views and beliefs compatible with those around us when we realise that we’re all fundamentally creatures live in communion with our planet.
In that moment, where a group of humans fortuitously witnessed a very symbolic leopard sitting in a very symbolic place on this land, I was reminded what incredible peace and prosperity for all can be achieved when we seek reconciliation.
So today I invite you to ask the question; how can we all reconcile ourselves back to our truest relationship with what truly matters.