At !Khwa ttu we share with our visitors authentic interactions, inspiring San guided tours, good food, compelling art and photography exhibitions, and professional friendly hospitality.
We offer our San students a safe learning environment and share with them appropriately designed training in sustainable tourism, culture, heritage, nature and general life skills, in order to support them in becoming San ambassadors and following their chosen career path.
Kalahari Dawn - a photo from our Satellite Pioneers. See Khwattuarchive.org
I have left the snows of England and am in the middle of an all too brief stay at!Khwa ttu, before flying to Toronto for a symposium on indigenous mental health. At !Khwa ttu I am working closely with the Heritage team and the wider building team and staff. Over the last week we have spent a fair bit of time working through details of our new digital archive site, which we have been testing in a trial format since October. While all signs are looking promising, working out exactly how San communities might like to engage with it and what it is possible for our satellites pioneers to achieve, is no easy question. We want to leave it open enough such that people can run with the idea but give enough structure that people feel they know what they can do. We are also working through the practical difficulty of payment to our pioneers, who are spread across three countries. Working with the Post Office seems the way to go. Once we relaunch we will invite museums and archives with significant holdings of San material to post selections from their material on the site, with the aim that our c Satellite Pioneers can introduce the material to their community and establish if and how they might wish to engage with it – see khwattuarchive.orgAt the beginning of the week we had a large meeting in which I asked for more input into our ‘orientation film’. The conceptual challenge we have with this film is how to present San. Do we start in a contemporary village and people carry on as they are and we film what is appropriate, hoping to catch some recent hunter-gatherer life - or do we present a ‘traditional’ village mock up or find a ‘traditional’ looking community and follow them into the bush, or do we structure the whole film around traditional hunter gather San scenarios, making things look modern or traditional as we do it. Traditional skins on or off; litter removed from camera etc – old problems but no standard solutions. When the regular workload of text writing, photo selection and exhibit design coordination, gets a little bit much I go back to my favourite theme of plotting out the contents for our new building. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to have the freedom to help design and populate this building from scratch. But it is no easy enterprise. We have had repeated meetings with different San groups when we walk through the space and I am constantly trying to talk to the trainees and staff into throwing ideas at me as to how it should look and be used. It is hard though for everyone to come up with ideas from scratch. So inevitably, I do end up suggesting a few possibilities first just to get the ball rolling – despite my persistent reluctance to lead the vision – this is San space after all.
Jos Thorne and Josh Cohen working out where our animated map of San land dispossession will fit.
At the moment I am thinking the best way we can use the new building is to treat it like a compressed San home territory, like the Ju/’hoan !nore – and maybe this extends to our whole 850 hectare site. What goes on in that territory can be captured with our immersive film exhibit and in the wider space. We gather what makes territory and village home and meaningful in our compressed space (sounds, wind, smells, seasonal fruits, hunting places, animal warnings, trading relations, music etc) and we try and introduce physical objects and spaces that recreate these ingredients of home areas. This way each guide can relate to the space from their own perspective and their guided stories can consist of their knowledge and thoughts inspired by what is around, without us having to provide some artificial script. Anyway, more meetings today and just still time before we fix the shifting sands!
The ‘Dream Museum’ at !Khwa ttu, the world’s first heritage centre of the San
people, will be composed of five distinct areas, each exploring an aspect of
the life, culture and history of the San. In preparation for our opening in
September the team at !Khwa ttu has become adept at keeping lots of balls in
the air, and in the last fortnight we have put into motion several small projects
which will greatly enhance the experience of our guests.
The first port of call for visitors to the museum will be the Orientation
Room. Here visitors will be introduced to the San and to our values at !Khwa
ttu. This week we have been talking to the filmmaker about the work we are
commissioning for this room. Together we are drafting the script and
developing ideas for the introductory film. Running for about 12 minutes, the
film will engage visitors in the story of the San and whet their appetite for what
is to come.The start of our museum tour is our Origins building, which divides into
a San origins section and an archaeology section. For the entrance to our San
origins section we have commissioned a large artwork from our old friends at
KuruART (kuruart.com), a San community art project, in Botswana. At
KuruART a number of different Naro Bushman artists will collaborate to
produce a beautiful, large canvas on the theme of creation / origins. For the
San people origins is a strong element in their oral tradition, although they
don’t tend to think of a single creation moment as there is in Genesis.
Instead, there was a time when people were animals and animals were people.Sometimes this is called the ‘primal time’ or the ‘first order’. Different
San groups have their own versions of the story, but in most, something
happened which caused the animals to be given their own specific
characteristics. At the same time, people lost the ability to talk to animals and
were given the power of fire, which distinguished them from the animals. This
was the great separation, and the move from the primary to the secondary
order of creation. All San groups have some versions of these tales and the
canvas, 1.8m x 2m, will be a visual representation of one of the stories.At the planning stage, the San consultants were keen that their story should
be told chronologically, so it follows that the second room on the tour is the
Archaeology Room. This week we have been in contact with archeologists
to pin down exactly what artifacts we can display or replicate. The objects we
have selected will give evidence of the earliest signs of symbolic thinking.
Lumps of ochre, 77,000 years old, decorated with crosshatching and pieces of
ostrich shell marked with scratched lines are amongst the first examples of
human mark making. They pose questions, ‘Why do humans start marking
things and what do these marks represent? We have also selected stone
tools made with the controlled use of fire. Examples of bone tools, bladelets
used for arrowheads and arrow shafts will also help us to trace back the
earliest signs of San culture into the wider hunter gatherer culture from which
we all came.For the Colonial Room, the third room on the tour, we have been selecting
photographs and drafting the text that will link in this difficult element of theSan story. When the Europeans arrived in Southern Africa, they had a
different way of thinking about land. In an age of Enlightenment, rationalism,
and imperialism, control and ownership were central to that thinking. As the
19 th C progressed and interest in anthropology, eugenics, and evolution grew,
Southern Africa, and the San in particular, became a real focus. In a Post-
Linnaeus age of taxonomy and categorization, the San were seen as possibly
the most ‘primitive people’ on the planet and thus they became a watchword
for primitivism. An era of dehumanization commenced. The San people were
weighed and measured, skulls and bodies collected. They were at the heart of
a movement that fed directly into the Nazis interest in eugenics. We are trying
to tell that story in a sensitive manner. Exhibition designer, Joss Thorne, is
working on the design of the whole museum and is acutely aware that, with
this room in particular, the material must be handled with sensitivity and
respect.Finally, on a brighter note, we have heard back from our San consultants
about sites for filming the footage for The Way of The San. It looks like we are
heading up to Tsumkwe in Namibia very soon.
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 andbattled 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.
The prestigious Darling ttu 2016 mountain bike race will take place on 1 October 2016. Entries will open soon.A solo or team relay event riding multi laps over a 24 hour period on a fast purpose build single track. A race with a BIG difference. The idea is quite simple, you race as many laps as you can in 24 hours. The solo winner or team is the one with the most laps. The race starts at 10am on Saturday 1 October and finishes at 10am on Sunday. You may start or stop whenever you want. Sleeping, eating, drinking and dancing is allowed.The venue has lots of space for camping with showers, toilets, water, food stands, beer garden, a bike shop, bike wash, entertainment, power points for light and cell phone charge, free wifi and a huge Bedouin tent in the centre of the race village. This event is meant to be endurable and enjoyable. The routeThe Darling ttu route takes place on 10 km’s of beautiful, purpose built with varied single track on the nature reserve that follows the herds of game. Pass several waterholes, bird hides and even a replica traditional San village. The thrilling route offers excellent views and amazing game encounters. This is for the adventurer who wants more than just riding on gravel roads and jeep tracks. You will not want to ride this exciting trail again and again.
Last year in October the Darling ttu 24-hour Enduro took place at !Khwa ttu. This was a MTB race different from any other race. The challenge was to endure 24 hours of riding on a fast purpose build single track while withstanding the challenges of a 24 hour braai fire, beer tent, live music and much more.People who ride 24-hour events do it for themselves, it can become a massive physical challenge that slams your fitness goals. It is a way to ask the body to push to new limits. But it is a race where you always finish with a smile.This event is as much for those who are competitive and who wanted to stretch limits as it is for those who want to have a fun weekend of eat, drink, laugh, kuier, camp and some serious riding. Manus Bester said after the race: ”Our team came to enjoy the riding, we planned to give it all till sunset and then to seriously relax, take out our cool box and to light our fire but then half way through the race the Jack Russel in me kicked in and all of us pushed ourselves - we went flat out on throughout the night and gave it all we had.”24-hour racing is a blast, specially as darkness falls when you smell the braai fires and enjoy our spectacular African Southern Skies. Some riders stayed out riding all night, some partied all night and some just sat around talking. That’s the joy of 24-hours, do what you like and nobody really minds. But the time keepers never go to sleep. Darling ttu uses a tag clipcard attached to the bike, and a wide awake time keepers to clipped and recorded each lap. Each rider can at all times check their laps.The Darling ttu 24hr Endurance event is a collaboration between Darling Creamery, !Khwa ttu and I Love Yzer. They are all passionate about the West Coast and creating new events and opportunities to experience the beauty of the region. John Loubser wrote in the Ride magazine of December 2016 that everything else as promised, on their website, was there and lots more. I have to give a huge shout out to this team, they really thought of everything. Do not miss this event taking place 30 September 2017.
The prestigious Darling ttu 2016 mountain bike race will take place on 1 October 2017. A Solo event for 12 -18 year olds riding multi laps over a 4 hour period on !Khwa tt's fast purpose build single track. The race starts at 11am and finishes at 15pm.