San made strangers in their own land

Sunday Times - - OPINION & ANALAYSIS - Pictures: PAUL WEINBERG Traces and Tracks, pub­lished by Ja­cana Me­dia, R380

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...

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