San made strangers in their own land
THE book Traces and Tracks is the culmination of a 30-year journey that photographer Paul Weinberg has taken with the San of Southern Africa.
Today there are an estimated 113 000 San who live in the region, predominantly in Namibia and Botswana and, to a lesser extent, in South Africa.
Weinberg had studied the San at university and was aware of their special relationship with nature, survival skills and their hunter-gatherer existence.
But nothing could have prepared him for what he saw when he first visited these communities in 1984. Many of the San men in Eastern Bushmanland, Namibia and Angola, had been recruited by apartheid South Africa to fight against the South West African People’s Organisation (Swapo), which was battling for independence.
Back then, Weinberg saw a society under severe pressure, grappling to hold onto its land, way of life, culture and values. The conversion of a people’s way of life — from one dependent on the land to one reliant on wages from the South African army — presented sad and traumatic scenes.
Waves of settler encroachment increased the pressure, while greed and short-sighted policies further eroded the San’s existence.
Weinberg’s portraits document this and other stories.
SUCKED INTO WAR: A South African Defence Force patrol in /Aotcha, in what was South West Africa, in 1984. Many of the San recruited into the SADF worked as trackers and guides
SURVIVING THE KALAHARI: Anna Swarts is photographed in 1993 searching for roots on a dune on the farm Welkom, near the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa. Some roots were for eating and others for her husband, Ou Jan Boesman, who had an ear...
RELATIVE COMFORT: A Khwe homestead, Platfontein, about 15km from Kimberley in South Africa, 2013. Platfontein had brick houses and every home had a tap and an outside toilet, which made it more desirable than the depressing tent town of Schmidtsdrift
TRYING TO GO HOME: Preparing to return to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in central Botswana after a historic court ruling allowed certain community members back into the reserve, New Xade, 2006. Although the San had been nomadic hunters on the land...
SERVICEMAN: A soldier at Schmidtsdrift, South Africa, 1992. In 1974 the South African Defence Force Infantry Battalion established a military training base at Schmidtsdrift. After Namibia's independence in 1990, members of 31 Battalion (the so-called...
NECESSITIES: A !Xun woman in her kitchen, Schmidtsdrift, 1992
THE COVER: A boy watches as a UN helicopter drops off ballots in /Auru in 1989, during Namibia’s first democratic elections. Swapo and South Africa agreed to a ceasefire in 1988. After 24 years of struggle the country ruled by South Africa won its...