Mmegi Blogs :: The Selei – a Survival from the Long Distant Past
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Thursday 19 October 2017, 16:39 pm.
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The Selei – a Survival from the Long Distant Past

The selei, an unremarkable mode of transport at best, is nevertheless well worth our attention. Remarkably, it both pre-dates the appearance of the wheel in this part of the world and was still in use when the railway, the ox wagon and the truck were a familiar part of many peoples’ lives.
By Sandy Grant Wed 20 Sep 2017, 13:13 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: The Selei – a Survival from the Long Distant Past








Indeed, it is just possible, I suppose, that it was still being used somewhere in the country at the dawn of the computer age.

It is confirmation of its extraordinary longevity that it was still possible, until fairly recently, to find old ones tucked away at lands and cattle posts. There will also be many people, myself included, who knew immediately from the state of the road or track that a selei had recently passed. I seem to remember that it was unable to move in a straight line and instead swung from side to side thus making an absolute mess of the road. Such has been the rate of change that the grandchildren of the ladies uncomfortably ensconced in the selei in this photograph could well have had jobs as computer specialists. The very possibility is extraordinary. Breath-taking. It also has to be said that when those ladies were sitting in their selei there were others in the country who were more comfortably sitting in planes. There were two types of selei I seem to remember, one with a pointed front and the other without.  Both were presumably made from the same kind of wood. They were incredibly crude and clumsy. Their principal advantage was that, unlike the ox wagon, they were so easily repaired and at no cost. Their principal disadvantage was that they required enormous animal power to move them forward even an inch.

It is unfortunately not sufficiently clear in this

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photo how many spans of oxen were needed to pull this particular selei but it looks to me like four, in other words, eight oxen. Like the ox wagon, however, the selei could only be pulled by trained oxen and harnessed by people who knew what they were doing. (It was also a mode of transport! ed.)These oxen could be ridden and there must be people still alive who have done so.

There are also archival photos which provide documentary evidence of this past activity. Some elements of the past can be retained and brought out of the cupboard for cultural revival festivals, but I am yet to hear that riding oxen is one of them! But it is the pulling power which strikes me as being of such interest. A few days ago, we sat in awe as a train passed ponderously passed us. It went on and on as it comprised no less than 38 very large, very heavily loaded trucks which were being pulled by two engines. 

A mathematician could presumably compare the two, the selei and the train and tell us how much power was required to pull so little in the case of the one and how much was needed by the other to pull so much? The difference can of course be explained in terms of the steel rails which gave for the train much reduced friction whilst the poor selei was always struggling against itself.

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