The South African Excursion, Part 1: The First People

It was early in the morning, with the first rays of daylight shining through the window, and the family and I were packing our bags. Dad had something truly special planned: a 5-day road trip through the South African countryside. On the first day, we reached a special place in the middle of the wilderness: South Africa’s San cultural center. The San are a culture native to South Africa (as well as most of its Southern African neighbors) and are as old as humanity.

We learned that they would have beautiful and entrancing dances and the village campfire to contact the gods. We learned that they would kill eland with poisoned arrows and then pray to the gods for their wonderful gift. We learned that they carried water for hunting trips in hollowed-out ostrich eggs and that they would return the shards of a broken water canteen to the village’s women so they could make jewelry. They cooked using tortoise shells, and they used hollow sticks with frizzled ends to drink water. It was amazing to see how they efficiently used the resources of their surrounding environment, and it was fascinating to see how their tools match ours despite not having the technology we’ve built our lives around.

Most San have assimilated into cities in their home country, but there still are San groups in Namibia and Botswana who live traditionally, who live the same way they have for the past 200,000 years. Despite hardships from the introduction of the Xhosa, the Zulu, the Portuguese, the Dutch (who later became the Afrikaaners), and the English to South Africa, the San have survived, but their culture is still recovering from the decades of Apartheid in which black South African culture and language was horribly suppressed. I encourage you to learn about their culture. Because it would be such a shame if we forgot our roots.

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