Of Giant Snails and Tradition; Fire and Totems….

Of Giant Snails and Tradition; Fire and Totems….

In the Southeast lowveld of Zimbabwe, on the Save River, The Chauke Clan totem is the African Giant Snail….

here is my art installation of giant land snail shells and fire-fired clay pot…

snail shells and fired pot in a cage.jpg

read on to find the story behind this piece…snail shells and fired pot in a cage detail.jpg

So….the story begins…

Seen here is a snail shell at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge on the Save River…


I never tire of sketching these wild and wonderful mollusks and their shells….



In the verbal history of the Changana Chauke Clan, living in the lowveld of Zimbabwe in the village of Chief Mahenye, there is a fascinating story told by the elders of how the Giant African snail came to be their totem.

Victor Chauke at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge has shared his Father’s story with me…as has Clive Stockil….

Back in those far-off days of hunter/gatherer existence, the Chauke family inhabited the Gonarezhou and Save Valley River area. Their Uncles, the Hlungwani family, had the knowledge and use of fire. The Chauke clan did not. Fire was supposed to be their totem- and yet they were deprived of it. By luck and daring, a Chauke clan member managed to collect some fire embers from the rival clan by using an empty giant snail shell as a receptacle for the glowing treasure.


The Chauke clan celebrated the fact that they had fire in their clan. They could now keep warm and cook their meat, and most importantly they could fire and harden the full-bellied clay pots that the women crafted to carry life-giving water, and cook relish.

Xangana pots, fired and beautifully hardy…..

mahenye hand made pots.jpg

Multiple uses of the fabulous fire-hardened pots included brewing of sorghum beer and collection of palm sap for palm wine!

clay pot for palm wine.JPG

So- the Chauke family  adopted the Giant snail as their totem –

andre botha snail.jpg

…..a creature which “withstood” the fire and also a creature which,  even after a strong bush fire has passed, will eventually creep out of its underground hiding place to emerge victorious over the fire…!!


Since it is their totem, the Chauke family are not allowed to eat a snail and it is believed that if you eat your totem you will loose your teeth!

IMG_8913.jpgSo, to this day the Chauke clan do not eat the snail and they use the fire as their slogan when they say ” (iyachisa) mulilo….” in their meetings and gatherings.

This is an acrylic painting of mine, two metres long !, titled “iyachisa mulilo….” IMG_9178.jpg

My art reflects the history of the snail shell, fire and pottery, in conjunction with Xangana tradition…

About wineandwilddogs

Lin Barrie The Save Valley Conservancy stretches along the upper reaches of the great Save River in the south east of Zimbabwe. The Gonarezhou National Park laps against the southern banks of the Save River and between these two nestles the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. These three celebrated wildlife areas form part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, (GLTFCA)- a unique wilderness jewel which is home to the “Big Five” (endangered Black and White rhinos, elephants, buffalo, lion, leopard) and the ”Little Six” (Klipspringer, Suni, Duiker, Steenbok, Sharpe's Grysbok and Oribi). Endangered African wild dogs, Cheetah, Brown hyena, Bat-eared foxes and a host of special birds and plants contribute to the immense variety of this ecosystem. Communities around the GLTFCA contribute to innovative partnerships with National Parks and the private sector, forming a sound base on which to manage social, economic and environmental issues. This is home to artist and writer Lin Barrie and her life partner, conservationist Clive Stockil. Expressing her hopes, fears and love for this special ecosystem with oil paints on canvas, Lin Barrie believes that the essence of a landscape, person or animal, can only truly be captured by direct observation. Lin Barrie states: “Through my art, and my writing, I feel an intimate connection with the natural world, and from my extensive field sketches of wild animals, people and landscapes, I create larger works on canvas. Lin's work is in various public and private collections in South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Australia, England, Canada, Sweden and the United States of America. She is represented by galleries in South Africa, Zimbabwe, England, Kenya and Florida, USA.
This entry was posted in abstract art, adventure travel, Africa, African child, African flora, african wildlife, african wildlife conservation fund, art, art collaboration, beauty, bio diversity, Changana people, Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge, clive stockil, community conservation, conservation, conservation education, cooking, cultural beliefs, culture, eco-tourism, education, endangered species, food, food culture, giant African snail, gonarezhou national park, great limpopo transfrontier conservation Area, Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, hlungwani peiople, home grown food, homegrown, initiation rites, Lin Barrie Art, molluscs, oral history, Shangaana people, spoken tradition, Totem, tradition, travel, wilderness, wildlife trade and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Of Giant Snails and Tradition; Fire and Totems….

  1. Pingback: An amazing mollusk: the Giant African Land Snail, revered totem of the Chauke Clan… | wineandwilddogs

  2. Pingback: Iyachisa mulilo…..”Fire burns”, a Changana totem…. | wineandwilddogs

  3. Sipho says:

    Hi. I would like to have the clay fired pots. My name is Sipho Mlilo. +27827234497. Email amathongace@hotmail.com

  4. Pingback: Endangered Landscapes – Earthscapes, Skyscapes; Wildscapes, Mindscapes… | wine and wild dogs

  5. Pingback: Beautiful Struggle and Burnt Offerings | wine and wild dogs

  6. Audrey Chirenje says:

    Awesome👌 👏

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