Tag Archives: circle

Tokoloshe Trap (or How to Catch Creatures of the Night)

(Update 21 March 2013: To see pictures and a description of the final artwork, please click here.)

I am hard at work preparing for a land art project which I am planning to do at the coast soon, and have been spending much time finding and cutting white thorns. These long, straight, white thorns, growing in pairs at an about 90degree angle to each other, are something I typically relate with Namibia. Different kinds of trees and bushes grow them and they look stunning, but are also really painful if you step into one.


I plan to use many (as in thousands) of these thorns, so I have been spending my past few days cutting these thorns off their branches. To get a break from this tedious task, I decided to arrange some of the cut thorns in my garden to see what it looks like. I decided on a simple circle shape. And this is what it looked like.

thorn circle

Cat & thorn circle

My cat is in the second picture, since she took great interest in my arranging the thorns and continuously interfered, thinking it is great to bite the thorns, rub her chin on them or walk straight through them. All of which was not very helpful and after I have pushed her away too often, she gave me the cold shoulder. (This picture also serves to give you an idea of the size of the thorns, and these one’s are medium-sized!)

Since it was late in the afternoon, I decided to leave the thorns in the garden and wait till the morning to get some of the morning sun for some extra pictures. When I came back to it early in the morning, I realized that some animal walked into the thorns. The circle was damaged and it was surrounded with tracks.

damaged thorn circle

Scratch marks next to thorn circle Spoor next to thorn circle

First I thought it might have been my cat, but the strangest thing is that judging by the size of the scratch marks and spoors, the animal must have been huge, something like a big dog. I know that a mongoose often comes to visit at night and stalk around my compost heap, but other than that, there is no large enough entry into my yard, for anything bigger than a cat. Unless it can fly…

Festus, who sometimes helps me in the garden and whom I called to ask if he could identify the spoor, was not sure what it could be either. But for some reason he thought it might be the perfect time to ask me what the word “Tokoloshe” means.

Wikipedia describes it as follows:

“In Zulu mythology, Tikoloshe, Tokoloshe or Hili (from the Xhosa word utyreeci ukujamaal) is a dwarf-like water sprite. It is considered a mischievous and evil spirit that can become invisible by swallowing a pebble. Tokoloshes are called upon by malevolent people to cause trouble for others. At its least harmful a tokoloshe can be used to scare children, but its power extends to causing illness and even death upon the victim. The way to get rid of him is to call in the n’anga (witch doctor), who has the power to banish him from the area.”

So, maybe it was a Tokoloshe?

Hmm, I am still puzzled by what it could have been, but at least I know one thing for sure: whatever it was, it stepped right into the thorns and will surely remember the pain and not come back soon.

And if I ever should need an additional income to my art, maybe I can patent this as a form of Tokoloshe Trap and catch some evil spirits roaming the land. 🙂

Detail Tokoloshe Trap

Detail Tokoloshe Trap