Before we could proceed into the royal kraal, we were asked to remove our footwear. A few eyebrows were raised, that is what norm required so we obliged. Moshakge Molokwane, our guide for the day, is a royal in Modjadji Royal Kraal, home to the Balobedu tribe, some of the most traditional people still gracing the face of earth.
He explained that just like in the good old days, entering the kingdom barefoot is a sign of respect.
The ensemble of singers, comprising mainly elderly women clad in orange tops and soft blue skirts was a sight. More so, their colourful and heavy ornamental embroideries around their waists and, necks. Some extended to the lower end of the spine, on their arms and around their ankles.
Making of the knick-knacks is part of their creative craft and they use cloth, soft metals, beads and globules. And as they danced and sang, some of the decorative, under the spotlight of the sun, shone as the entertainers shook their bodies to a rhythm that accompanied their traditional music.
Molokwane explained that Modjadji Royal Kraal is famous for being home to the Modjadji rain-making queen, one of the few surviving traditional rulers in Southern Africa.
Historically, Modjadji was known as an extremely powerful magician, able to bring rain to her friends and drought to her enemies. Her position as paramount ruler is based on this power. For this, Modjadji have been feared and respected for two centuries of their existence.
The royal kraal is located in the green mountains of Limpopo. Masalanabo Modjadji, at 12 years, is the queen-in-waiting. We did not get to meet because she was at school.
According to Balobedu custom, the rain Queen must not attend public functions, and can only communicate with her people through her male councillors which is already violated by her attendance of school, something royal Molokwane says has been adjusted because we live in modern times which have greatly affected customs and norms.
Nonetheless, not all is lost. Every November, Masalanabo presides over the annual rainmaking ceremony at the royal compound which our guide says is celebration time.
“We slaughter a cow called Makhubo, which we all feed on. It is a special cow and its bones are buried. Everyone in the kraal partakes of the meat,” Molokwane explains as he takes us around the compound in Khetlhakone Village.
Assuming the throne
The queen, our guide tells us, is currently ruling with help from a council of elders in the royal kraal. In an interview with our sister newspaper, The Citizen, Modjadji Royal Council chairperson and spokesperson for the Modjadji royal family, John Modjadji, confirmed that Masalanabo would soon take her rightful place as rain queen but said the matter was too momentous to discuss with the media.
The clan has been without a rain queen for a little more than 10 years after Masalanabo’s aunt, Makobo Constance Modjadji, who was Queen Modjadji VI passed away in 2005.
AT A GLANCE
Just like many royal dynasties, Modjadji Royal Kraal was ruled by kings. It was during the reign of the fifth king, Keale, that the seeds of the matrilineal royal family were sown.
Keale, a polygamist, was angered when some of his older sons showed inappropriate interest in his younger spouses. He decreed that succession would not automatically go to the oldest son, but rather through teachings and the approval of the ancestors.
Molokwane confirms though, that the Balobedus’ precious rainmaking charms are ‘kept under lock and key’ until the first Saturday in October, when the Balobedu nation gathers at the royal kraal in the Bolobedu district.
Shoes are forbidden in the kraal.