Last week we spent our final days in South Africa tucked into a quiet valley near Clanwilliam in the Cederberg Mountains in the Cape. It was a short holiday after leading our 22 day tour. We stayed in a 250 year old classic Cape Dutch converted barn in a citrus orchard. Perfectly quiet, sunshiny days with black velvet nights sprinkled vividly with southern constellations were just what we needed. Clanwilliam is centre of rooibos tea production – it can only grow in this small region of the Cape. I bought a kilogram to bring home.
We spent a day exploring one of the 3,000 San rock painting sites in the Cederberg. The paintings go back at least 8,000 years and evidence is that these small, gentle people lived here for over 100,000 years. I found this wonderful little video about their click language. The San were beaten almost to extinction within 200 years of the Nguni tribes migrating from the north and the Europeans settling the Cape as a water station en route for spices in the East. However San genes are strongly present in the local populace and their cousins, the Khoisan/Bushmen, have been pushed deep into the driest places in Africa: Botswana, Namibia and the Kalahari Desert.
The San left their mark in these fascinating, vulnerable paintings. Priceless treasures, they are our earliest human art and speak of a cohesive culture connected to nature. Many of the paintings are fading due to lichens, weathering time and sometimes senseless vandalism. I found it profoundly moving.
Coincidentally, after viewing the paintings I read an article about how an exploration company wants to frack the remote desert areas where the Khoisan eek out a fragile existence in Botswana. They are to be displaced yet again. Heartbreaking.
The day we die
a soft wind will blow away our footprints in the sand.
When the wind has gone,
who will tell the timelessness
that once we walked this way in the dawn of time?
– from an old song of the San.
In this image a newborn zebra teeters on its wobbly legs. Keenly observed and captured in ocher by a San artist on the rock walls of the Cederberg.
Our accommodations near Clanwilliam. It is said the San taught newcomers how to drink rooibos tea.