Irie members of the Bushman Khoi San tribe return to the castle to remind us of ancient stories

In the Cape town Castle, recently, I met a circle of Bushmen, standing round a small fire of impepho- also known as Khoigoed. An African wild sage, which is used to connect with the spiritual world. “Impeopho connects one to ones Higher Powers. It is also a cleanser.” Neil Hartman- the press spokesperson for the “Indigenous Liberation Walk” told me later. He explained that the group had just walked to Cape Town as a group from the edge of the Kalahari desert. (1300 km in 10 days- with no food or water or shelter arrangements, they just traveled light, like in the old days, surviving on their wits.)
They spoke sacred words and poked the small fire with their sticks.

Imphepho- an African indigenous sage was burnt.
Imphepho- an African indigenous sage was burnt.

I spoke to this beautiful bushman who allowed me to photograph him, wearing a hat made from a caracal or Rooikat- ears and all is a tracker. That means he has the skills of following an animals by finding all the most subtle clues, not only footprints, but also sensing the creature intuitively. He told me he had psychic abilities. Like for example, he could tell if a woman was pregnant, and how many months and what the weight and sex of the baby she is carrying is.

Portrait of a Bushman tracker at the Cape Town Castle
Portrait of a Bushman tracker at the Cape Town Castle

Another older bushman with sparkly eyes… told me that he was a healer, he knew the herbs and he used his intuition to sense what was wrong with a person. I asked him if I could come and learn from him one day. And he welcomed me to. I hope I can. He was from Leeu Gamka in the Karoo. !aob is his true Bushman name, but he is also known as Saaman.

A Khoi San Medicine man in traditional dress posed in the courtyard of the colonial Cape Town Castle.
A Khoi San Medicine man in traditional dress posed in the courtyard of the colonial Cape Town Castle.

Later in the dungeons, I met a sad bushman who pointed at the terrible place. It was a small room which had been opened in recent times, but must have just been a dark hole before. Now there was a window for tourists to see inside. He told me that this is where his ancestors had been burnt in the 1600’s. This after being tortured and having their lips cut off to prove how many they had killed.

What possesses one creature to do such cruel acts to another? It is beyond comprehension. They must have been very sick in the head. What causes such acts? Could it just be an insane need for one to display power over another who ultimately has threatened him and so he sees them as an enemy? Is that what bullying collectives do to one another. One peoples ego exploiting another, not because they are weaker, but because they are actually threatened by their powers. The Bushman peoples in those days had skills of survival in the wild place Africa was then. White colonialists were cumbersome and awkward in their materialistic ways but very proud. They are pictured in bushman cave paintings with huge penises. Perhaps they came and raped the women (they did) or perhaps they are depicted that way because the penis represented a big ego. They have little to be proud of now. It is a shameful history for the white man.

Although they were once the first peoples – the forefathers of all the tribes- which recent research by genetic scientists has proven, the remaining pure blooded bushmen and women I met at the castle felt that their nation was so lost and invisible in the new South Africa that they had the walked in protest all the way from the Kalahari desert to the Castle to remind people of their heritage. To call for their true languages to be taught in schools and to remind us that being classified as ‘coloured” was not a true identity. The Khoi languages are dying. Only a few dialects are still spoken. The few teachers that used to teach their languages have been stopped. They are calling for at least one Khoi or Bushaman language to be made an official language. SA has 11 official languages, not one is a Khoi dialect even though the coat of arms uses Khoi San words. The words on the SA coat of arms are translated as meaning “Unity in diversity”, but according to a prof. Cyril Hromnik, these Xam words have been taken out of context and the true translation is nonsensical. The man I met at the dungeon told me that the group had been invited to Switzerland where they would be addressing the U.N. at a conference in Geneva. I encouraged the Bushman brother on his mission reminding him that in the broader context, they – as one of the earths first peoples could be the leaders in showing people how to survive on the new and ancient path, which requires one to tread lightly on the earth. It is ingrained in the Bushman way of life never to take more than one needs.

I believe that the story of the earths indigenous first peoples and the skills they have is very important in the world today. It is what author Charles Eisenstein speaks of “the new and ancient story” that everyone needs to remember and understand in his book. The more Beautiful world our hearts know is possible....”

Interestingly, I recently met Charles Eisenstein when he came to Cape Town to facilitate a think tank with a collective of environmentalists and people of faith (SAFCEI) in how to move forward with the challenges being faced at this time. His message was that it is time to let go of the old story- the story- flogging a dead horse: no longer repeating old mistakes, and move to the place between stories, a place of contemplation and stillness. A place of openness and listening, and from this place we may come upon a new and ancient story, which will lead us to the beautiful world our hearts know is possible. The more we believe in it, the more we make it happen. If only we could move in that direction, even as the forces of fear and evil and bullying mentalities seem more rife now than ever all over the world in many forms. And even though those are the stories we hear about in the press. Stories of unity love and peace have never been big sellers. Or at least that is what they think.

Yet, thinking of those Bushman, the tracker and the medicine man, looking at their faces. It is clear that awareness in a place of listening and stillness, is a way of life out there in the desert places where they live. It is the skill of the tracker to be open. To be super aware. Aware of all on this plane as well as the next, as a matter of survival.

Yet the story of being a victim, the story of us and them, the story of exploitation of one over another, all of that is the old story. The story of unity in diversity, the story of acknowledgement and understanding, of true identity of the richness of ancient tongues, that is part of the new story, the story of the beautiful world we need to acknowledge and make possible. For riches come in different forms.

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