MINUTES OF U3A  FALSE BAY GENERAL MEETING HELD AT FISH HOEK CIVIC CENTRE ON 21st MAY 2014

WELCOME:  Peter opened the meeting, welcoming all and after a few announcements he introduced today’s speaker:  Patricia Glyn, speaking on DAWID’S RETURN.   Patricia has been a broadcaster on radio and TV for 30 years and is also the author of Off Peak, a diary of 3 months spent at base camp Mount Everest and a documentary of a 2000 km hike from Durban to Victoria Falls following in the footsteps of her ancestor Sir Richard Glyn.

The lecture was enlivened with actual videoclips and was of about an expedition of 2 months undertaken in 2011 as a heritage mapping trip with Dawid Kruiper, legendary tracker, seer and patriarch of the Khomani San.  They were accompanied by his younger brother Buks, also a tracker and seer, and three generations of their families to explore the Kalahari and revisit their ancient historical homeland and landmarks.  The Kruipers are the actual descendants of the last surviving group of South African Bushmen, the Khomanis, and Dawid was the grandson of the last patriarch Makai.  He was anxious to take the family to a secret ancestral place.

What Dawid Knew by Patricia Glynn. Image from http://panmacmillan.co.za/catalogue/what-dawid-knew/

What-Dawid-Knew: by Patricia Glynn. Image from http://panmacmillan.co.za/catalogue/what-dawid-knew/

While Patricia and her team travelled in well-equipped modern vehicles and slept in tents they could not but be impressed by these unspoilt children of nature and how differently they look at the world.  For instance, Westerners observe the landscape while they feel that they are part of the landscape and belong to the land with its snakes and scorpions.  The sand of the Kalahari was like the newspaper of the bush revealing tracks of passing animals and wind directions which could alter tracks.

The children were taught how to practise target shooting and walking to the sites of the ancestors, learning to endure hunger and thirst, value natural resources, read animal behaviour and absorb traditional knowledge, practise water conservation and avoid wastage of any kind.  They were furthermore taught to identify medicinal herbs such as Devil’s Claw which is now acknowledged as an antidepressant and seeking out melons bearing water and delicacies such as the Kalahari truffle.  Sand was clean, could be used for cleansing and a most delicious bread was made baked slowly in the sand.  They generally preferred their own food.

Like the slow cooking of food nothing was ever done in a hurry and Westerners were reminded that in rushing three-quarters of what goes around is missed.  They also constitute a most egalitarian society, as consensus was always sought before any decision was made.  They were also great story-tellers with a great sense of humour, Westerners thinking they had so little to laugh about.

While these were wonderful learned and heredity characteristics there was a downside of being socially dysfunctional, addicted to tobacco and prone to alcoholism.  Patricia attributed this to the pain of the past.  The Kruipers were directly descended from the first people, the hunter-gatherers and coming into contact with agropastoralists  was bad enough but in the 1600’s the arrival of the Europeans proved disastrous. To avoid genocide the Bushmen retreated into the Kalahari.

In the 1930’s communities were further shattered when the 70 Bushmen taken to the Empire Exhibition were not allowed to re-enter the Kalahari leaving the Kruiper clan alone, as they had wisely opted not to go.  In the 1970’s they were left on the side of the road after being evicted from the Kalahari.  In 1987 they were put on display at KaggaKamma  but they found the climate and terrain unsuitable.  In 1999 they were granted full ownership of their land.  However the Land Claims also turned into a disaster with 500 claims made by people who were not Bushmen.

In the early 20th century in German South West Africa the German-Nama  war saw death and destruction with 80% Hereroes  and 50% Nama Bushmen wiped out.  Dawid’s goal was to retrace the paths of the Nama who had put up fierce resistance in that war and tell his descendants what happened.   Unfortunately he died before the book was published – he ‘who had walked so lightly on the earth’.

Patricia ended by saying the ultimate secret was in the book.

Peter gave the vote of thanks and closed the meeting.

PRESENT:  300 members and visitors