Brody San Archive
This unique community archive (held at Special Collections, UCT Libraries) speaks to the history of the ǂKhomani San of South Africa. It began with the research around establishing the land claim, which was won in 1999, and continued with a series of oral history, mapping and film projects that took place up to 2012.
After decades of enduring suppression and discrimination, having been driven out of their homes and lands within the Kgalagadi, and inspired by the possibility of a land claim, the San began to speak out. Key figures in this were Dawid Kruiper, Elsie Vaalboi, |Una Rooi, Kheis Brou, Jakob Malgas, Andries Oleyn, Antjie Kassie, and many others who were living at the edges of townships, at the sides of the road, or as farmworkers, staying as close to their homes in the Kgalagadi as they had been able to remain. Anna Swarts and Boesman her husband, stalwarts of the ǂKhomani San who stayed and kept the hope of the land claim alive, Welkom, 1993.
When the ǂKhomani San share their history, they tell a story of dispossession from their lands, erasure of their way of life, disappearance of their language. To speak of their past is to search in memory for all that was taken from them in the colonial, apartheid and post-apartheid era. But they also tell a story of reclamation and recovery of lands, language and even of memory itself. They tell a story of struggle to emerge from the losses of the past, to put in place a new story. In the process of the land claim, the research team rediscovered the N|uu language.
The collaboration between the research team and the San of the southern Kgalagadi resulted in the most extensive documentation of ǂKhomani San heritage that had ever been undertaken. The archive thus represents a full recognition of ǂKhomani San history and their place in the world. It is a means for transmission of knowledge to future generations. And for all the San of the southern Kgalagadi, it is a source of immense pride.
“We want our story and history to be known and shared in the world”
ǂKhomani San Elder
The Archive of the ǂKhomani San
This collaborative community project became an archive which comprises oral history, maps, photographs and films that show where people were born, lived, hunted, gathered and died. The archive holds these stories, and is itself a part of the ǂKhomani San determination to know, to share and to secure forever that which was so nearly lost.
The series of films, Tracks Across Sand, generated through 15 years of work, includes 140 hours of original film, maps, GIS (geographic information system) databases, family trees and transcripts of oral history collected in three different languages.