The kudu is also a sacred animal to the bushmen, and contains supernatural potency called !noom. This potency allows animals to do extra ordinary things, and a kudu can jump more than 2,5 metres high from standing still position, quite impressive for such a large antelope. The kudu is also associated with rainmaking, their spirits being summoned, lured, or even captured from where they live by rainmaking shamans. Their homes are usually waterholes, springs, fountains, oases and rivers, where they exist in spiritual form once they've lost their physical bodies through the process of death. The kudu is also of course a very beautiful animal, with only the males having the long, spiraling horns. They are cousins of the eland, having evolved from the same ancestor, with the eland specialising in more open environments, and the kudu specialising in more dense bushveld environments where they browse on their favourite food, the leaves of trees and bushes.
In the height of the dry season, when all the pans have dried up, all the wild melons are finished and all the sweet bulbs have been consumed, the gemsbok in its desperation and need for water, is forced to dig up bitter roots and bulbs in order to get his daily requirements of moisture.
The gemsbok is tired of eating these bitter foods, he yearns to drink soothing, quenching cool water from the pans in the dark of the night, to dig for sweet buried treasures of hidden bulbs and roots, in the midday sun, and to seek out those juicy fruits of water, the tsamma melon, that lay hidden amongst the valleys of the sand dunes.
So the gemsbok calls the rain, pleading it, begging it to come, summoning the clouds to build up and converge to cumulonimbus heights, luring the water spirits out of their deep-rooted oases and springs so that he can sooth his eternal thirst.
This is why when the bushmen dance for rain, along with the rain dance they also perform the gemsbok dance, mimicing the gestures of the gemsbok as he looks east calling the rain and scraping in the dust with his hooves to indicate his desire for water, no longer willing to eat bitter roots and bulbs.
Written by Gary Trower