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By Melissa Andrews. Pictures by Christopher List
Cape Town - I wasn’t sure what to expect when we stopped at !Khwa ttu, a cultural and educational centre that aims to educate the public and restore the heritage of the San.
It does this through training and apprenticeships for the remaining San in southern Africa, who number a mere 100 000. Among the first people to inhabit the world, their culture has been eroded by Western ideas – and the legitimacy and efficacy of San cultural tours is questionable.
Located on the lands of the now-extinct Xam, !Khwa ttu offers tours that take you back to a time when the San roamed the continent, living off the land before the advent of modern agriculture and mechanisation. !Khwa ttu officially opened after seven years of clearing alien vegetation, allowing indigenous flora to return and reintroducing numerous species of antelope, bat-eared foxes, caracal, aardwolf, porcupine and a variety of birds.
The tour culminated at the replica San village. Our guide, Kerson Jackson, who grew up in northern Namibia, explained to us about the clothing worn by the San, and how jewellery and other beaded decorations were made. We learnt that in San culture the uncle chose a man’s wife for him, while a boy would express his liking for a girl by shooting a small arrow next to her. If she picked it up, she was interested. After marriage, she would embroider her skirt to show that her heart belonged to her husband, much like women wear wedding rings today. !Khwa ttu guides are passionate about imparting knowledge, not reciting it.
A photo gallery highlights aspects of San history. The exhibit features traditional healers and indigenous plants. The accommodation is also a hidden gem – a tented bush camp, rustic bush house and bush village camp, which replicates small San huts made with locally available materials, all off the grid with solar lighting and gas facilities.
It was only fitting that we left !Khwa ttu for Cape Town in a blanket of rain (our trip started with rain), arriving at Hollow on the Square’s Green Annexe, a carbon-neutral hotel in the CBD with cork flooring, bamboo furniture and double glazing that cuts noise and boosts insulation.
Oranjezicht City Farm is a prime example of urban farming. Co-founder Sheryl Ozinsky, a consultant and marine biologist, believes the project will build relationships between people from all over the city, acting as a catalyst for skills development, education about food and environmental issues, and demonstrating what can be done with unused or under-utilised public spaces in the city.
“It’s about kneeling in the dirt beside a neighbour you haven’t met before and marvelling at the growth of beans you’ve planted together,” she said.
A Food & Trees for Africa project in Langa was equally inspiring. Three years ago, a group of unemployed friends was sitting around, chatting. Founder Kangela mTetwe, 28, said: “I asked my friends, why sit around while the sun rises and sets? Why don’t we do something?”
A piece of undeveloped land next to Mokone Primary School sparked the memory of her grandmother, who always grew her own food. mTetwe approached the vice-principal about cultivating the land. Although that land wasn’t available, there was a hectare of mostly eucalyptus – and the rest is history. After completing a permaculture design course, mTetwe has big plans – vegetable gardening, chicken rearing, aquaponics and more. “Our dream of vuna (meaning harvest) is not a dream anymore,” she said.
Chapman’s Peak Drive is one of SA’s most innovative engineering projects, the initiative of Sir Frederic de Waal, the first administrator of the Cape Province, who refused to accept the word “impossible”. After heart-stopping views, we arrived in Noordhoek for lunch at the stunningly located Red Herring, meeting friends and family who welcomed us home.
We spent the night at the Noordhoek Lifestyle Hotel. The first hotel in Cape Town to install solar heating, it boasts energy-efficient lighting, water-saving showers, local staff, recycling and an indigenous garden.
Riding along the peninsula, intoxicated by the sun’s warmth, the salty smell of the sea and rocky cliffs plunging into the surf, it was almost disappointing to arrive at the Mountain House in Clovelly – although superb views over False Bay, and the Silvermine wetland and valley soon made up for the unforgettable ride’s end.
Sandstone evacuated during construction was used for the walls, while every effort was made to ensure a minimal footprint.
Emfundisweni Pre-primary is in Nomzamo, a township that suffers from the same problems that affect most townships. Principal Nomalizo Pikashe is undaunted. She wants to give her children a kick-start in life so she teaches Grade R pupils business skills so they can become future entrepreneurs.
Children not more than five or six cart wheelbarrows full of manure and drums, and plant all the vegetables and trees. They eat the fresh produce they grow. Some have even started gardens at home, thanks to Nomalizo.
Lastly, we visited the “green” shack at the Design Indaba. Designed by Touching the Earth Lightly, the green shack addresses fire, flooding, food security and insulation in a simple, low-tech manner. Set on stilts to raise the shack above the floodplain – with vertical food gardens on sun-facing sides and indigenous plants on non-sun-facing sides, both wrapped in fireproof boarding and serving as firebreaks – the shack features rainwater catchment and low-cost lighting (sunlight shines through 2-litre bottles filled with water and fitted to the roof).
Innovation in sustainable design was prevalent at the Indaba, with organic canvas printing, recycled metal sculptures, tablet covers made from brown paper bags, handmade flowers fashioned from found and recycled materials, and products made from seaweed. With Cape Town the World Design Capital for 2014, it’s going to be interesting to see how the city uses design as a tool for development.
l See www.eco-friendly-africa-travel.com - Cape Times