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A different way of life

20 May 2014

You scan your Facebook news feed probably ten times on a daily basis, while quickly googling the meaning of that intriguing word you saw on Twitter earlier, before checking your Outlook calendar for the meeting you have scheduled later. 

Eland Art

When was the last time you tried to go through an entire day without googling anything? 

The technology we use has become so intertwined with who we are that it is difficult to separate ourselves from it. We use it for research, entertainment and even to doodle pictures during meetings. It has replaced almost every function that our hands and imaginations used to be good enough for. 

There is a place on Route 27 on the Cape West Coast, where you can pull in to learn more about a group of people who used the wind and animal tracks to find their way to dinner. 

Their entire world consisted only of the area they could cover by foot and, where the Eland and Praying Mantis were of such significance to them, that they featured them in almost all of their documented rock art.

They lived off the earth, taking nothing more than they needed and spent their nights around camp fires, telling the stories that have been passed down from generation to generation, which can be recounted by modern day San people to this day, without the assistance of any written documents.

!Khwa ttu, a place of stories

Storytelling has always played an integral role in the lives of the San. It is through these stories, both retold orally and through rock art, that the modern day San are able to keep their history and traditions alive. 

San Tour

Take the eland, for instance. This antelope (which is the San’s most spiritual animal) stands at the entrance to male and female adult status, as well as to marriage and trance dancing.  A young San boy, on the verge of adulthood on his first hunt knows that he will be accepted as a man if he can shoot and track an eland or other big antelope for his first kill. Once he does, the eland will get skinned and a broth will be made with the fat and the collar bone. 

A girl reaching adulthood (first menstruation) will be isolated in her hut. The women of the tribe will perform the eland bull dance, whilst imitating the behaviour of the eland cows. A man will play the part of the eland bull, usually with horns on his head.  This ritual will keep the girl beautiful, free from hunger and thirst and peaceful. As part of the marriage ritual, the man gives the fat from the eland’s heart to the girl’s parents. At a later stage, the girl is anointed with eland fat. 

At !Khwa ttu you will find many of these stories come alive, not only in the beautiful exhibition, showcasing special photography and storyboards of the San people, but also from the San guides, who will demonstrate their skills and share their ancient knowledge about oral history, tracking animals and identifying plants during an hour and a half San guided tour.

Why not take a break from your computer screen and learn about a different way of life, about caring between generations and living closer to nature? For once life could be simple.

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