Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The heart of Dixie

The name Shangaan loosely translated means 'lost tribe'. A name coined when the Tsonga people split from the powerful Zulu Nation. However, one proud man, Rexon Ntimane, believes his people have found hope.
Dixie is a small rural village on the outskirts of the Sabie Sand Game Reserve in South Africa. Just 1km away from these humble dirt roads, leopards embrace the night and herds of buffalo roam the savanna. A small structure serves as a curio shop for the passing patrons of sculpture and craft. Chickens, cattle and goats loiter the roads. The usual rural African village seems different though.
There are no children in the streets running up to us to have their picture taken. They are all at Wisani Nursery School. Many of these kids are oblivious to the fact that the man visiting them is responsible for their being there, and perhaps even their future. Their innocent eyes are more focused on the porridge that is being dished up in their enamel bowls.
When Rexon first started his community work he was met with resistance. These people have seen individuals sell precious land for empty promises. Rexon managed to win the trust of the community and the elders.
This was not easy. Rexon explains that the Shangaan people are steeped in tradition and this often makes it difficult to initiate change.
The beauty lies between the lines. Here is man hanging on to traditions in a modern world. A man who seeks the approval from the elders but knows his generation is the the vehicle for change - all for the benefit of future generations. Nothing is black or white in the rainbow nation.
Rex is certainly forward thinking. He established the nursery school to free the mothers from their children so they could work. Most of them now work in the game lodges or tend vegetable gardens. 'My main aim is to build something the community can run because they are the future.' says Rexon as we head off to see his other labour of love.
'We hope construction will be finished by June. but we have to work hard'. Rex walks us through a small building that will later serve as the hub of the community. HIV counselling, art, ethnic education and even woman's soccer. Rex somehow finds time for these projects in between his hectic schedule with Wild Earth and his role as patriarch in his family.
It takes someone with imagination and courage to dedicate his life to the upliftment of his people and overcome immense odds to get things done. Rexon praises his father for being such an honourable man who taught him the history of his culture. The influence on his character seems obvious. Rexon is wise beyond the limitations of language. Self taught in written and spoken English.
The bush was his University. 'What's the difference between your upbringing and that of these lighties?' I ask.
'We grew up hunting small game in the area. Herding cattle. Collecting wood, making fences. A lot has changed. Our culture is diluted.' Rex hopes the youth will embrace their culture. He realises that the only way to succeed in that is to engage them in the community and pass down the knowledge that they too will pass on to their children. Rexon has hopes of his son becoming a lawyer. He firmly believes all his children should get a university degree. His stature within the community is now as firm as the foundations of the school building. 'I drive past here and sometimes my tears come off'. Seeing the faces of these kids in a safe, caring environment makes Rex feel proud of his work. Proud too of his community. The warmth of the Shangaan people is around every corner and the entire village benefit from the eco-tourism. Its evident that growing up near the African bush has shaped the beauty of these people. Their regard for wildlife has changed with the times but remains firmly ingrained in their nature.
Dixie is a place of hope that is slowly seeing change through the efforts of a man who seeks no reward. He is inspired by his heritage. The spirit of Africa to guides him on the path to uplifting his people and helping them live a life their ancestors would be proud of.
Written by Daniel Querido

(Note: The Wisani Nursery school was built with funds provided by the Buffelshoek Trust ( Djuma Game Reserve ( is the largest contributor towards the monthly running costs of the creche.)


Anonymous said...

Wow Dan thank you for the insight into the man Rexon is. What he is doing for the community is both honourable and admirable. Amazing story - an aussie wuth a passion for all things sfrican

Valorie said...

Well we all knew Rexon was an amazing guy.. but wow.. he's doing/done some inspirational stuff. Very admirable, Rex!

Great story, Dan, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing a bit of Rexons life with us ! What a wonderful man to be doing this for his community . Made my tears fall off too !!!
Pammie - myafrica-site

Anonymous said...

I am in awe of Rexon and his accomplishments in Dixie. His footprint will forever be upon those people and the little village. The are all so blessed to have Rexon looking out for them. Well done, Rexon! You are an amazing man...
Dan, great for on the write-up as well!


Margo (kiotewoman) said...

Way to go Rexon! Kudo's to you for your hard work and inspiration! Never give up your dreams. We can change the world one person at a time each doing their part. You're amazing!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story about a wonderful man. We knew Rexon was involved in the community but not to what extent. Thanks to your story, Dan, I'll be looking at Rexon as more than a guide.

Anonymous said...

I have known Rexon now for amny years. It has been our honor and privilege to help him achieve some of his dreams at the Wisani Creche. Through Rotary here in British Columbia and the assistance of Djuma we have built on the kitchen and washrooms at Dixie, built in bookshelves and equipped the school. In August I return to Dixie, Utha and Saville B - to work at the schools - and see Rexon once again. He is my friend and my brother. Dean - aka bushnut

Anonymous said...

Rexon what an amazing man you are. Those kids have got to be blessed to have such a understanding and caring man come in and do that for them. Obvious its what you love to do and you have a passion for it, you are a great man!


Anonymous said...

What a treasure we have in Rexon...a treasure a lot of people have including his village! It's so great to know more about the man who talks to us so lovingly about his culture, his world. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Sueso who watches WE from KITN

AmandaLii said...

Wonderful story, Dan. Rexon, you are an inspiration to us all. Thank you for all your hard work.

Amanda from

Anonymous said...

WOW I am in awe of Rexon ! Thank you Dan for telling us more about Rexon. He is truly amazing! Where do I contribute to his cause???

Anonymous said...

My oh My, Dan! You've just arrived, and are already making an impact! What a wonderful story - hope you write many more.

"Hooray" for Rexon! We're very, very proud of you. If we can help in any way, please let us know!


naturewatcher said...

Thanks Dan for letting us all know what Rex has been doing in Dixie. Rex 'Shangaan' may mean 'lost tribe' but with what you are doing there the culture, traditions, history and future of these people will not be. You are truely an amazing man.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Dan for giving us a fuller picture of Rexon. We always knew he was a fascinating man, full of information about the animals and the bush, and Shangaan lore (which I love hearing about), but he is so much more than that. Hero is a term much overused I think, but Rexon is truly doing heroic things in the village of Dixie. God bless him and his work.

Camwatchers Cafe

Anonymous said...

Rex, What a wonderful man you are. It looks like you are devoting a great part of your life to the community & the children that I know you love so much. I now know why the community & everyone thinks so highly of you. The children have a great future ahead of them, thanks to you. It is also great to see you so happy in the drives lately. Your happiness comes through in your smiles & your voice. Keep it up my friend. Ken from My-African-site

Anonymous said...

WE should be very proud to have such an employee as Rexon. As I have come to know Rexon (thru the game drives), I have come to admire his knowledge, his passion and his enthusiasm for life, both for the bush and for his culture. I very much enjoy hearing him talk about his culture!

Thank you, Dan, for shedding more light on the behind-the-scene on Rexon's life. It truly is an inspiring and wonderful story!


Raven-Camwatchers Cafe said...

Wow. So much more to this man than the wonderful insight he brings us as a presenter.
I know I speak for many when I say we have a whole new appreciation for Rex.
Keep up the wonderful work. I hope it brings you many blessings.
Dan~fantastic story. Hope to read many more.

Lauren said...

Hi Rexon--so glad to see you're doing so well. In July you were so excited about this. Glad to see you're wearing Chuck's hat--he'll love knowing that. Take care. We'll be back summer 2009, hope to see you then.

-The Scott's and Lewis's in Texas
-The Valentines in Alabama (Dixie!), USA

Claire-M. aka Clic2007 said...


Not only are you taking care into the reality of everyday in your community and are a proud Shangaan son, you also teach us WildEarth viewers more and more of your language and culture. I think "survival" of Shangaan people is well on its way. I'm very happy to know more about you.

Daniel, thank you! You followed your heart in writing this beautiful blog about Rexon and your photos are really appreciated.

Claire-M. from Québec city

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dan for your wonderful way with words and updating us on what is the remarkable life of Rexon outside of WE. His passion for the land, the animals, the fauna and flora, as well as the folk lore of his culture has been very evident in his words, but now you have shared his works with us.
Thank you Rexon for all you do and I feel so honored to be able to see and hear you live on WE. Maybe someday I will have the honor of meeting you.
Fla, USA

LadyDoc said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful report. I have admired Rexon's work in front of the camera; now we can all admire the man who does so much off camera. This may be the most joyful post I ever read here; it is certainly the most moving.

Anonymous said...

In a world where we hear so much about the horrible side of life, there comes a bright flame of inspiraion that melts away all the bleak and dreary shadows. What an amazing, wonderful thing you are doing Rexon. I admire you for bringing hope and inspiraion to your community. Your passion for the animals and your culture make you a great man. Thank you Dan for showing us another side of Rexon we all have come to know and love. Many blessing to you both for all you do...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dan for letting the world know what a special man Rexon is! As a Licensed Family Childcare Provider for 40 years, I know how important it is for parents to know that their children are well cared for when they are at work. I am so impressed with the work that you have done and will continue to do for your village and its people. You make the drives so interesting when you share your experiences growing up in the bush. Not only have I learned a great deal about the animals, birds, reptiles and insects that we see on a drive, you also have taught me about trees, grasses, flowers and how your culture has used them in the past. I would really like you to post some of these stories on the blog so we can understand them even better. Bless you for the work that you do!


Stacy said...

I was going back into the blog archives today to look for something and found that I had missed this post.

Well done Rexon! I had no idea there was this side to Rexon. I can't say as I am suprised, he has always sticken me as a giving spirit.

Rexon you an insipiration!