Metro South Education District travel to !Khwa-ttu to celebrate Heritage Day with their San cousins

Arriving at !Khwa-ttu cultural and education centre

Our arrival at !Khwa-ttu was like a massive homecoming. There were crackling fires lining the circular stoep with flames bouncing about excitedly. Then there was Michael, our chief tour guide and his team of San descendants displaying a continuous circle of smiles and walking in step with us to the dining hall. Steaming, frothy coffee and tea served by an ever charming catering team joined the welcome. Any one watching the dining room would have seen a wondrous blend of happy sounds, sights and smells from a group of people celebrating life. We were SO ready for our San experience here at the !Khwa-ttu Cultural and education centre!
In the dining hall at !kwa-ttu on arrival

San Storytelling circles

Effortlessly, we slipped into the world of the San, circling from one San storyteller to the next. We learn about the tools, utensils and accessories that were made from natural resources such as duiker and eland skin, calabash shells and porcupine pens.

Showing a skin with beading done using porcupine spikes

We listened to stories told in San languages with fellow San guides translating into English for us. We enjoy the puff adder and the mantis, the jealous old wife that left the younger wife in a tree for years and a story of the ugly creature in the well – laughing out loudly and chorusing when the animated storytellers pulled us in with expressive gestures, talking faces and dramatic voices. We laughed and they laughed too – everybody stopping to enjoy the union and then our storyteller continued the story as if that was exactly what is supposed to happen. 

Listening to San storytellers from Botswana and South Africa

model of eland. San hunters only hunted bulls and young eland to protect the species from extinction
We learned about the various San languages and we clicked and waded through a few common San words in the various San languages. We also learned about a San language that was declared extinct for a hundred years and then discovered that there were 26 mother tongue speakers of this language living in the Northern Cape! What was fascinating is that our “Language” storyteller is the great grandson of one of the 26 San speakers of this falsely declared "extinct" San language. How close can you get to the past? We also learn about the San’s amazing wisdom of the medicinal qualities of plants and their knowledge of plants that can serve as coverings or mattresses.

Andre, a great grandson of one of a San who could still speak a San language that was declared extinct for 100 years!

Walking in the footsteps of the San with the San

As you journey with the San storytellers, telling their own stories in a reconstruction of their own villages and cultural traditions, you are witnessing the authentic commitment to preserve San heritage. You see a demonstration of how cultural tourism is being used to advocate the preservation of ancestral knowledge  and how a minority group like the San are empowered to take control of their own lives and their future. Gobsmacking stuff!

Now, when the Heritage Committee of our education district brainstormed the form of our Heritage celebrations for this year, the team agreed on the following: the experience must be culturally, spiritually and educationally enriching without compromising on the fun, community-building elements.

Did we achieve our objectives? If the deep insights that colleagues shared with one another and the spike of energy and comraderie that were displayed in the bus on our way home were indicators to measure the success of the San Cultural and education centre Heritage experience for us, we have achieved.
Metro South education travel to !Khwa-ttu
Bennie helping to demonstrate the wearing of loin cloths

Colleagues taking time to take a picture before boarding the bus 

Kudus( is it Elands) to the Organisers

So, to Errol, Derick, Simon and Ashley ( and to bubbly Chantal in the wings): Thank You for investing your spirit, time and energy to give us an enriching experience. A Huge round of applause to each one of you. We can’t wait for the next lift off…

Thomas admiring the view.


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