Thursday, April 28, 2011

Khwa Ttu # 4: How softly they tread!

There is no painting today but only photos. As heavy rains come down daily, accompanied by extreme cold, I stay indoors and ponder on what we know of the San.

Signs of their lives which go back thousands of years were found in this whole area stretching over Yzerfontein and Darling and at the present !Khwa Ttu. Even here where I live close to Kabeljoubank one of those mysterious rounded stones with the hole in the centre was found when the neighbours laid their foundations.

How very softly they treaded, these gentle people, the first inhabitants of the Cape! They did not excavate or build or cultivate or plant! They truly left the earth as they found it! What they needed in their daily lives was only a little food and water, and some protection for the body. My few photos show all the possessions they needed. With bow and arrow the men followed and killed buck, which they cut into pieces with flintstones. They made "Boy-scout fire" and some meat and vegs were cooked. (On the tour that I will take on a sunny day, we are going to be instructed in making a fire with two sticks, oh my, I am going to fail class!)

The women and girls collected medicinal and edible plants and roots, using the heavy stones as levers on their sticks to lift out underground tubers. The San valued water most highly and collected it underground by means of grass straws pushed down into melon-like watery roots. Water could also be stored in ostrich shells and carried around like quivers by using leather straps. All clothing and blankets were made of animal skins. The only other thing they needed was entertainment, which took place in the form of stories en-acted by the elders.

Once an area was depleted of food, the San would move away, but they were not nomads in the full sense of the word, as they would gladly settle in a good spot, like here at !Khwa Ttu, The Place of Water, with many little discoveries still in store for us... (To be continued)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Khwa Ttu # 3: The Restaurant

The best place to start learning about !Khwa Ttu is to visit the restaurant where everybody you meet will be willing to tell you more about the place and about themselves. We had happy chats with Michael who is so forthcoming with amazing stories about the San, and we also had conversations with trainee cooks and waiters. Everybody here is always friendly! You can meet many of the staff by clicking on the official !Khwa Ttu website.

For the children and adults living at !Khwa Ttu both traditional and formals skills are taught. Ancient crafts and skills are thus preserved, but a sense of direction into the modern world is also instilled and with it the dignity that comes with a good education and the chance of gainful employment.

I loved the shy-friendly and serene personality of Magdalena (we share a name as that is my middle name), who was very helpful and efficient at our table. In this portrait I tried to express the personality of this shining star. The photos show detail of the large cool restaurant.(Breakfast and lunches offered). The lovely "wildlife" light fittings of papermache are well chosen. Before I go, I want to recommend the pear-and-blue cheese salad. A last note: This is the 150th post and my blog is 2 years old!

Next week we will enter an interesting be continued!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Khwa Ttu # 2: Admin Buildings

!Khwa Ttu is the San Culture and Educational Centre. It concentrates on their oldest history and culture, but also, most importantly, on their place in modern society.

The San (hunter-gatherers) and the Khoikoi (herders) are the oldest indigenous people of South Africa. They were here thousands of years before the black nations moved down from the depths of Africa and before the monarchs of Europe sent ships around the Cape of Good Hope and the Dutch started the refreshment service at the Cape to provide for these ships.

My previous post awoke in many readers the sense of longing one feels when approaching !Khwa Ttu. I was happy when fellow blogger Kelley Carey McDonald used the word "evocative" in her comments. We are very aware of this feeling when we enter a walkway made of a lattice of saplings. It leads to a large cleared circle in echo of the antique San encampments. Here, in my painting (a large 24 x 18" oil painting) you can see the info and admin centre, shop and restaurant housed in a friendly building.

Am I going slow? In the next post you will meet the San at last! And after that, another interesting walkway! In coming posts we'll also see some ancient tools and hear of the miraculous talents of survival of these people. I am even one day going on a tractor ride to learn more! My children will "test" this ride to see whether mom's back can survive it! If all else fails, it will have to be a walking tour after the winter! To be continued......

Saturday, April 2, 2011

!Khwa Ttu # 1: The Approach

For the next few posts I am taking you to !Khwa Ttu, a 15 minute drive from home. You may pronounce it Qwatoo, as few of us could master the clicking sound preceding the word. Here the San has dwelt many centuries ago. While people in Europe built palaces and kingdoms, ships and new world colonies, the San survived through their miraculous talents of hunting and finding food in drought-struck savannas and deserts of the Southern regions of Africa.

The approach goes though fields with a desolate feel to it, only familiar to us who were born and bred in Africa. I have tried to portray this sense of Africa in my oil painting. Even hardy fynbos was trampled by these early people and the wild animals they hunted. I am gripped by a feeling of longing as we drive towards the entrance. What stories of survival are hidden here? To be continued........