Every year the Ik burn the grass around their villages and gardens. The reasons they do this are two-fold: sometimes they are hunting small animals (cane rats or antelopes) and better able to catch them during a fire...but more likely than not, the Ik burn the grass because they think their crops will grow better if there is ash in the soil. Also, burning saves them the hard work of cutting down the grass manually which would take days.
At first I was a bit unsure about fires burning around our house as I have no idea about how to handle a fire if it got out of control. Thankfully, the Ik are masters of controlling fires. They may not go to school, but they've learned how to manipulate their environments in the school of life. If a fire is coming close to a village, the Ik will start another fire near the village to stop the first fire. I'm sad to say that this technique does not always work as planned. Three weeks ago, a fire got out of control near a village and couldn't be stopped. It started burning the village and when some people went back to salvage their belongings, five of them got caught in the fire and died.
It always makes me a little sad to see the fires burning. It symbolizes death & destruction in my mind. The hills of old, dead grass are suddenly gone...replaced by black nothingness and a soot that stays in the air for days. But the Ik don't mourn the change. They know that very soon a bright green will sprout forth from the ground. The dead grass is replaced by new life, only made possible through the fire. I feel a spiritual lesson coming on but I know it's one we've heard many times so I'll just leave these pictures as a reminder. Death is necessary for new life. After the burning rituals, it never fails to amaze me what beauty can rise up when least expected.