Once Upon A Time: A Short Overview of the San at Kagga Kamma and Beyond

Once upon a time, thousands of years ago, Kagga Kamma was home to a group of very interesting and resourceful people known as the San (or known by some as “Bushmen”). The San were the oldest inhabitants in Southern Africa and were a group that hunted and gathered from the veld; they only took enough to fulfil their needs and never any more.

The San men (sometimes women) when required, would go into the veld and hunt for the clan. Always sharing what they hunted. Always celebrating what they caught –humbly giving thanks. Hunting to the San was an art from.  With a bow and arrow in hand, they strategically stalked smaller antelope like the springbok or steenbok and then, at the perfect time, seized the opportunity to raise their bow and release an arrow into the antelope. The arrow head was dipped in a slow release poison that would sometimes take several hours or even days to work. During the hours or days (or longer) of tracking and trailing the animal, it usually succumbed to the poison. Only the meat where the arrow head struck couldn’t be eaten; the rest of the buck didn’t contain any toxin at all.

Gathering was also a big part of their lives; not only food, but also the plants from which they made traditional medicine. Women (sometimes men) were expert foragers and knew what plants could be eaten or used. The group of ten to 30 would work together trapping, hunting and gathering – never being wasteful; always living in harmony with nature.

The San were also very artistic. This was expressed through dance, but more especially through painting on cave walls. Their rock art was more than just abstract markings or carvings made by the clan or shamans; but had deep spiritual, religious and symbolic meaning. They loved to paint the Eland (a type of buck) because of the deep religious and spiritual symbolism it held for them; but they also often painted human figures.

The San mostly used reds, orange-browns, white and yellows in their paintings and made their own paints from different substances mixed with animal blood for spiritual significance. Some of the ingredients added into their paint were red ochre (haematite), yellow ochre (limonite), manganese oxide or charcoal for black. They used bird droppings for white but this didn’t last as long sadly. This beautiful rock art can still be viewed at multiple sites within the Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve today and is one of the truly extraordinary things that makes Kagga Kamma so special.

The San culture has significantly influenced the spirit of Kagga Kamma – living in harmony with nature and each other. This culture coupled with Kagga Kamma’s beautiful surroundings, makes it an exceptional destination.

To get more fascinating facts about the San at Kagga Kamma read: San Hacks, Culture and Fascination with THE Eland:  Six Interesting Facts You Have to Know About the San People of Southern Africa


2 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time: A Short Overview of the San at Kagga Kamma and Beyond”

  1. More than 20 years ago I spent time in Kagga Kamma at a Timeshare resort and have some lovely transparencies not only of the rocks especially but also of a group of tribal people only partly clad and the children bare … they
    could speak only their own language but luckily a man in our group could speak and understand them and thus
    we had limited conversation. Their chatting was very demonstrative and thus made our understanding closer.

    I now live in the UK since my South African husband passed away but find people show very little interest in hearing about those wilder parts of the Western Cape – not landscape or inhabitants. They cannot see beyond South Africa’s former politics and don’t wish to discuss further. If only the S.African travel authorities could publish and export more of the culture and the diverse landscape and peoples and ignore overall politics.

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