A key focus of our culture project here at !Khwa ttu is the development of a
San Museum. In its building phase we have been referring to it as The Dream
Museum because it addresses the dreams of the San from all over Southern
Africa. Development began back in 2015 and we are looking forward to
opening our doors to the public in September 2018. The heritage centre will
help us to fulfill one of !Khwa ttu’s primary roles – to bring cultural restitution to
the San people.
To understand the San is to understand how nature is woven into who
they are and who we are. For 98% of human history, we were hunter-
gatherers and the San are the closest living relatives to our original human
ancestors. Until very recently most San lived by hunting and foraging, but now
the young are forgetting their past as they embrace a new world. But they are
not the only ones to have have turned their backs on where they came from.
In most cultures, the connection with the landscape has been broken. Only if
we feel the world, appreciating and respecting its relationships, can we hope
to follow the path of our ancestors into a sustainable future.
The Dream Museum is a place for the San to tell their story in ways of
their choosing; a place of dignity, where their voices can be heard and their
past can be remembered for a better future; a place for the San to tell you
who they are; and because their story is a story of human origins, a place for
you to discover your own story too.
With only months to go before the opening of The Dream Museum the
team at !Khwa ttu are hard at work. This week began with commissioning the
films that will be projected onto the high walls of our new building, a building
we have provisionally called, The Way of The San. The name seems
appropriate as it works on a number of levels. We want to convey what is
special about the San as hunter-gatherers, but also to explore their way of
being in the world and the lightness of their footstep.
The building in some ways began with a reflection on this relationship
with the land. We were faced with the problem of representing people who live
outside, inside a building (the wild weather of the Western Cape giving us no
option about that). But the architect came up with a practical solution to the
problem – an inside outside building. One whole wall is made of glass, and the
indigenous planting will continue inside the building to blur the edges and
bring the landscape indoors.
The art of the building shows that the San know relatively small tracts
of land incredibly well. They rely on that land for everything they need and
when times are hard, they look to surrounding San groups to share the
resources of their land. The Way of the San tries to be a non-building, it is
made out of ecological principles pointing to the fact that all you need is
around you. You don’t need the complicated manufacturing that underpins our
life to survive.
The farmers who took over their land, Eurpoean colonialists and post
colonialists, dismissed the San as primitive nomads who roamed across the
land, not utilising it to the full, unaware of its potential. The colonialists,
themselves travellers, settled on land that they knew nothing about and
battled to make it yield to their requirements. But the San moved around in
balance with the land, in tune with its rhythms. There is a sufficiency in there if
you have the skills and knowledge. There is time to talk and sing and play.
But the community has to work well. If you can’t get along with your
neighbours you have a problem -there is no life out there on your own in the
bush. The building conveys this harmonious balance- great skills , a
tremendous knowledge of the land and a community that works well – if you
have these things you can live a good life.
As the building is about feeling we have decided to convey the
messages through film, rather than text. Six aspects of San life will be
depicted: the land; hunting and gathering; bringing back the food, cooking and
sharing; relaxing at camp, mending tools, playing; evening in camp,
storytelling and star lore; sickness and healing. Our San consultants, living in
San communities, are involved in all aspects of planning and development
and this week we have been in touch asking for input about the film making
and looking for advice for suitable places and people to film.
In The Way of the San our visitors will be immersed in the sights and
sounds of San life, their senses awakened, their bodies reminded what it was
like to be a hunter-gatherer, alive to their environment.