THIS SOCIAL IMPACT DOCUMENTARY ‘SISTERS OF THE WILDERNESS’ WON BEST SOUTH AFRICAN FEATURE DOCUMENTARY AT THE DURBAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL AND QUALIFIES FOR THE OSCARS.
The film is mostly set in the iMfolozi wilderness area, within the oldest proclaimed game reserve in Africa and one of the fast disappearing pockets of wilderness where wild nature can be experienced at its purest form.
Since time immemorial this sanctuary has maintained its raw wildness. Here an ageless spirit survives and one can sense a spiritual connection to the land. The iMfolozi valley was the heartland of the Zulu people who lived here in harmony with nature and with great respect (inhlonipho) to Mother Earth and all creation.
This wilderness acts as the main character in the film. Into this wilderness a group of young Zulu women enters on a life-changing journey to experience true wild nature for the first time in their lives.
The young women, mostly from townships and semi-rural communities, aspire to elevate themselves beyond challenging life conditions. They have an interest in nature and a spark of leadership but they lack the opportunity to experience wild nature in their impoverished lives. Accompanied by veteran female wilderness guides, they camp under the stars in big game country, totally surrounded by wild animals such as elephants, rhinos and lions. Exposed to the elements and carrying on their back all they need for the journey, they have to cope with emotional and physical challenges, and learn what it takes to survive in the wild.
A wilderness journey is an intense experience where one can expect to undergo personal transformation. It can enhance personal growth and leadership development; and it is also a soulful experience that has the capacity to heal. The solitary night watch where one is responsible for the entire camp, the solitude contemplation sessions and the possible close encounters with wild animals like a charging rhino, an elephant ambling next to the camp at night, the yellow eyes of a wild cat in the dark of the night, all contribute to enhance one’s sense of connection to nature and encourage self-introspection.
The latter especially occurs whilst one sits around the campfire, listening to the lively Zululand wilderness night, hearing the cough of the leopard, the cry of the hyena or the roar of the lion.
Mentoring the women and initiating them into the wilderness is, KwaMashu born, Lihle Mbokazi, the first black South African woman wilderness guide. Lihle is also deeply interested in reviving indigenous knowledge systems and share the wisdom of the old days with the young women. Along with Lihle we also see Janet and Zondi, the lead wilderness guides, who share nature wisdom with the women.
Long periods of Nature’s ambient sounds help the audience to connect with wilderness and when interweaved with the soulful music of film composer, Ian Arber, transports one into the same inner world of connectivity that nature takes one on.
Link to SistersOfTheWilderness.com for a short trailer.
Despite the tranquil setting, the iMfolozi wilderness is now severely threatened.
An existing open-cast coal mine on the Eastern border of the wilderness is expanding regardless of its devastating impact on the surrounding rural communities and their livestock.
Additionally, a proposed coal mine just 40 metres from the park’s southern boundary threatens to devastate even further this fragile nature gem and the communities.
The park is home to incredibly important populations of both white and black rhino. It is renowned worldwide for being the historical home of the Southern White Rhino, following the successful ‘Operation Rhino’ in the 1960’s driven largely by the park’s then-warden, Ian Player.
Dr. Player’s efforts brought the rhinos back from the brink of extinction. The park now has the largest population of Southern White Rhino in the world.
The success of this program has recently been compromised by a gruesome increase in rhino poaching within the park. This critical threat has not only become a great concern for the park, but for rhino conservationists worldwide.
Link to SaveOurWilderness.org for additional blogs and information about Dr. Player.
Call to action:
At THE CROWD VERSUS we can also use your help. We crowdfund for the litigation pending to stop the permitting of open cast coal mining, or the expansion of older, already present mines (Tendele).
We look forward to seeing your ideas!