Talent Gore Lifestyle Writer
Snakes have been symbols of fear and hostility to most human societies throughout the ages, largely due to their perceived deceit of Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the biblical Garden of Eden, as well as to the general lack of knowledge and appreciation of snake biology and behaviour.
Snakes and Africans have never really mixed, particularly in Zimbabwe, the only people that have been known to be on “friendly” terms with snakes are those believed to be prone to witchcraft tendencies.
The atmosphere when a “normal” person and a snake accidentally meet is expected to be one characterised by fear and hostility, as such, people try by all means to avoid creating room in their homes for snakes.
In recent years, snake keeping and snake handling has become some sort of a lifestyle for people to the extent that people visit snake farms just to get a glimpse of how it feels like to hold a snake or put in over shoulders.
In Harare, there is the famous Snake World, where visitors will see the green and black mambas, Egyptian cobra, olive grass snake, tree-stripped skaapsteker, boomslang, pythons, puff-adders, forest cobra, vine snakes, gaboon vipers, Mozambican spitting cobra and night adders
There is also a new spot called Msinje Farm, 30km from Harare along Shamva road where snake junkies visit to interact with snake and other reptiles which are available on the farm.
The farm has been receiving overwhelming response from locals who visit the area every weekend to interact with different reptiles particularly snakes.
At the farm, they allow visitors to hold the snakes and take pictures, they also have experienced guide who is knowledgeable on all the snakes.
While some people have vowed never to interact with snakes some have actually created a living out of snake handling and some are actually keeping this vicious reptile as pets.
Some worship it as a sacred animal, and to even think of harming or removing the python, without consulting the local authorities or ancestors, may land you in some serious hot water
Looking somewhat young for his age, Chawatama Marimo chronicled how his love for rescuing snakes and other creatures came about.
Chawatama Marimo with a python around his neck
“I started handling while living out in the bush on our family mine in 1991-92 Chawa said.
For the past 20 years, Chawa has travelled the width and breadth of the country, rescuing snakes and other creatures that stray into homes. He has since lost count of the number of animals and snakes that he has rescued and returned to the wild.
“I know that people hate snakes but God created them for a purpose. Snakes only attack humans when they are cornered, otherwise they are beautiful creatures that should be left alone,” added Chawa.
“While other cultures appreciate the role that snakes play in the environment we are far from understanding why these creatures where slotted into the jigsaw puzzle of nature.
“They play a crucial role in controlling pests that would otherwise overrun us, they are the natural fumigation department of our planet.
“Snakes also prey on each other so they in essence control each other’s numbers and by killing one a large snake in an area you have actually caused an imbalance that we can’t comprehend.”
He disputed claims that snakes are associated with witchcraft.
“In our Culture snakes are viewed as evil and associated with witchcraft, I personally have not seen an evidence of so called voodoo snakes in all my years of catching snakes in people’s properties,” he said.
“People have said a lot of things about me but I’m not fazed by it at all, my goal is to educate my fellow brothers and sisters because I believe nothing was made by accident and everything exists for a purpose. I always say that if all the snakes were to disappear the human race would soon follow.”
Nigel Horwe with a snake on his neck at Msinje Farm
In the African context, a snake appearing in a dream can symbolise a person we don’t trust, when snakes show themselves, we often see their true colours.
Snakes often appear in the grass in our dreams, or nightmares can be a metaphor for someone who has been hiding something, and whose intentions are far from honourable.
Self-taught, he has devised new ways of easily catching snakes and other reptiles. Chawa says conditions in most urban areas attract big and venomous snakes.
Chawa, who was bitten on numerous occasions by both venomous and non-venomous snakes, said catching snakes is an “art” and is not afraid to die from snake bites.
“Why should I be afraid of death? Eventually we are all going to die at some point. I was once admitted to a local hospital after I was bitten but that experience taught me to be more focused. I was careless that day and I paid for it.”
According to Chawa, a lot of factors are taken into account when one is bitten by a snake.
“It depends on the type of snake, where the person has been bitten, the amount of venom deposited into the body and the general health of the victim.
There are a lot of misconceptions regarding snakes and chameleons,” said the famed adventurer.
In other cultures, snakes were represented in connection with the healing art in Babylon, Egypt and Palestine and are still twined round the rods which symbolise our present day medical profession.
Snakes, particularly the python, play an important part in certain cultural histories, some tribes and areas revere it as a god, and across many African cultural backgrounds, it is the serpent that God rode while creating the earth, and after creating the world, the python curled around the equator, and holds the earth together.