The San have inhabited Africa for thousands of years but modern ‘civilisation’ hasn’t treated them kindly. Now there’s a Fair Trade Tourism project that trains them in tourism and restores their cultural heritage. Visit !Khwa ttu to learn about the San near Yzerfontein and have some fun on the West Coast, just an hour’s drive from Cape Town.
A Namibian San family sits outside their grass hut, dad in a Vote Swapo T-shirt, squatting in a way that only people with skinny thighs can do. Mom has a baby on her on back and reaches out to touch the man’s head in a gesture of affection. A pair of old shoes, a galvanised bucket, a hunting bow and a skinny hunting dog lie in the sand, the family’s meagre possessions.
This photo is part of an exhibition telling the story of the modern-day San over the past 30 years.
This is the reality of most San – Africa’s First People – across southern Africa from Namibia to Botswana and South Africa. Their days of freely roaming the veld to hunt and gather plants are long gone. In their place have come poverty, discrimination and marginalisation.
You could say that the San are celebrating the past here in the present so that they can have a better future, on their own terms. The days of others appropriating the beguiling San culture without any direct benefit to the San themselves must end.
We chose to go on a plant walk to learn about the medicinal and food value of various plants that grow here. You can also go on a drive through some of !Khwa ttu’s 850ha to see eland, zebra and springbok and get insight into the San’s tracking and hunting methods.
Our slow walk led us around in a wide arc and ended at the San ‘village’ with a fire at the centre, where people tell stories and celebrate a good hunt by communing with the ancestors.
Donika, also from Platfontein, showed us how to make an ostrich shell necklace, chipping pieces of shell, then filing them on a stone to a round shape. She used a long stick as a drill to make a hole through the centre before threading them together.
For authenticity she spoke in her click language, with Phillipus from Namibia translating. The San population today is around 130 000 and they speak 13 different languages. There are three main families of San languages and only those from the same root group can understand each other. For the others, the common language is English.
Her family will give him three tasks. The first is to make a fire by rubbing sticks together. It’s harder than you’d think and Phillipus got out of breath demonstrating the technique. The second task is to hunt and kill an eland, the third to make a hut – all practical tests to see if he’s worthy and can look after her and her family.
!Khwa ttu educates and trains up to 30 San people every year, and the benefits filter down to some 150 dependents from remote communities in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The trainees live at !Khwa ttu for about seven months, expanding their knowledge of San culture and heritage. They also learn to use it in modern-day hospitality and tourism by getting hands-on experience in the restaurant and on the tours.
I love supporting such responsible tourism projects. Apart from enjoying the tours and the gallery, you can go hiking or mountain biking, stay over in the cottages or enjoy a meal in the restaurant, knowing that your money is being put to good use.
Did you find the article interesting? Pin this image!