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Sacred Soutini (Place of Salt)

Sacred Soutini (Place of Salt)

“There by the sacred tree we call “Motswiri”, an ancient ritual is performed. 

An expression of gratitude to the ancestors, as the gifts from the earth pour forth.

Here, we remove our shoes and walk in reverence, through the muddy terrain. 

The savannah? Dry. No clouds in sight. The earth leaks, but it did not rain.

Your feet feel the earth’s passion. Searing, hot and true. 

As you hear the bubbling fountain, Baleni comes into view. 

This is a sacred place. Do not point your finger or speak of what you see. 

Here at Baleni, we use a sacred language. To protect and preserve its purity.

We harvest the salt from the beginning of May.

But as the rain falls and the river rises, we must stay away. 

This is a part of the cycle, and we must..obey.

This is no place for men. They do not understand the divine nature of the earth. 

Women are the custodians of this salt, midwives. Enabling this saline birth.”

Baleni, located on the Klein Letaba river in Limpopo, is the last salt hot spring in South Africa and a United Nations Heritage site where a two thousand year old salt extraction process continues to this day. Women are the custodians of this time honored tradition which begins with an offering at a leadwood tree called “Motswiri” before continuing to the bubbling hot spring where the mud is collected and processed using age-old traditions to extract the salt; which is known for its nutritional and healing properties right across the Southern African region.

Soutini is indeed a gift, Borne of the Earth. 

Kgalagadi Ancient Salt

Kgalagadi Ancient Salt

Two million years ago, in the area we now call the Kalahari, existed a mystical body of water so vast, its shimmering surface extended to eternity, seemingly meeting in divine communion with the heavens. Three of Africa’s great travelers once snaked through the region that is now Southern Africa on a perpetual pilgrimage, to deliver their treasures in tribute to this lake. We know them today as the Cuando, Okavango and Zambezi rivers. To this day, they continue to make that journey in tribute to the mystical lake of old. 

It was at this lake where it is believed that humankind’s story began two hundred thousand years ago. For seventy thousand years, we were nurtured and nourished by the gifts brought forth by the great lake, gaining the necessary wisdom and understanding of our world that enabled us to adapt and journey beyond the lake’s shores. When our environment began to change, we bid farewell to this great lake and it in turn bid farewell to us. But not without leaving us with a flavorful, saline gift that transcends time and remains essential for our health and natural survival. 

Each pinch of this Ancient Gift contains within it, memories of a time when we all lived in alignment with nature. Savor this. It carries with it the abundance of times of plenty. Indulge in this. 

With each rain season, that lake sends us a message to remember it and the role it played in our existence. Through the wildlife and grass plains that draw nourishment from the powder blue waters punctuated by the pink flamingo, that symbolic bird that reminds us to seek balance with nature. 

Savor this Ancient Gift from that Ancient Lake….Makgadikgadi.

Kgalagadi Ancient Smoked Salt 

Kgalagadi Ancient Smoked Salt 

There at Makgadikgadi it is said that humankind’s journey began on earth. Where we lived in close accordance with nature, in clusters of communities collaborating and co-creating our destiny on this planet, one day at a time. Truly we must have gazed up at the night sky in awe as we gained knowledge of our environment and in turn transmuted that knowledge into tools, language, medicine and sustenance. In time, that knowledge sparked an idea, a desire to explore lands further afield…as Makgadigkadi faded into history, enveloped by the desert we call “Kgalagadi” or “Kalahari”. 

But we did not all leave, some of us stayed and adapted. We stayed, and continued to live in accordance with nature, drawing from the vast gifts of the desert. Hunting, gathering and living in community under the same night’s sky. Our presence could be seen from a distance, as the evening fires punctuated the landscape, the alluring aroma of the day’s hunt sizzling effortlessly on the African beechwood embers as we painted accounts of the hunt on the caves walls and rocks that provided shelter. For the plants and animals that roamed this area, a natural salting occurred, ensuring a flavourful source of sustenance and vitality in each meal. 

That aroma, the strong nutty and bold aroma of the African beechwood, has traveled with us through time and can still be experienced throughout Africa in the wood fired kitchens, the smoke and embers flavoring maintaining that symbiotic relationship between Earth, Nature and Humankind. 

Each grain of salt contains, with it relevant traces of our story. Smoked for ten days with this special wood, the smoke becomes the salt and with each seasoning we not only become one with nature, but we taste our own journey…Elevated. 

Earth.Nature.Humakind.

Benguela Lily Fleur de Sel 

Benguela Lily Fleur de Sel 

There is a special place in the South Western coast of Africa where the fertile  Berg river meets the ocean, creating a quiet and pristine umbilical connection between the continent and the Atlantic Ocean. It is also here that we get to witness a unique and elevated expression of nature’s gift, to which we are sworn to preserve and nurture and preserve with our hands. So delicate is this gift that to receive it with tools devoid of a soul would cause it to disintegrate, like the delicate flower that it is. 

It’s at this special place where over 400 years ago, the Ocean bearing fertile gifts from the Benguela current formed a lake deep beneath the earth’s surface. In time, the water from this lake began to make its way to the surface, coursing through limestone, quartz and and shell enhancing the purity of the water and imbuing in it, more of Earth’s energy until finally in birth, it reached the surface. 

It is at this moment where Earth’s gift with the help of the hot African sun begins to crystalize, elevating the crystal’s energy with a potent life force unlike any other, enabling the saline flowers to “bloom” and float like a lily on the surface, in delicate beauty. Beauty so rich that mere contact with the lifeless tools would make the flower disintegrate and dissipate, forever lost to us. This flower can only be picked with the gentle care of our hands.. For the energy of the soul is essential. 

With nothing else added to this flower, this “Benguela Flower” is truly a gift of Earth’s Energy…Elevated.

Benguela Sea Salt Flakes

Benguela Sea Salt Flakes

There at the top of the golden sand dune, a solitary Damara stood. Observing with curious wonder, incessant waves rolling with military precision onto the shores of this land of mystical contrasts. Their pulsating, inconsiderate momentum suggested that theirs was a mission that had been bestowed upon them since the beginning of time. As old as the sands on which this solitary traveler now stood, distracted by the alchemical process taking place in front of him. He had been traveling a long way, the footprints in the desert sand betraying his movements in this unforgiving desert which stands as the oldest amongst all deserts. His destination, impossible to navigate without his keen knowledge of his surroundings, the wind and sun during the day, and the stars by night. 

For that moment however, his spirit beckoned him to pay close attention to the phenomenon unfolding before his eyes, his life’s purpose being revealed to him. His steps along that sand dune had been carefully ordered, well before he or his ancestor’s existed, he was to observe and tell those that would listen, of the birth of the shards of flakes of salt..

That their spirit comes from the air that travels to the East. Where all that is new and divine emerges. 

That their healing essence comes from the ocean. Bearing treasures from the deep, raised by the Benguela current. 

That their form’s origin is from an agonizing clash. Borne of the caress of the unforgiving waves against the desert sand. 

That they do not come to life  without purification of fire. Forged by the purposeful mentorship of the sun’s rays. 

That solitary traveler may never have a name, and his footsteps may have been erased by the never ending march of this aged and wise desert. The one we call Namib or “The Vast Place”, taken from the word Nama which, to the unobservant eye, means “There is nothing”. What remains is the result of a natural alchemy, the elements coming together to bring flavor, nourishment and healing to those that would partake.