It was their connection to the earth that spoke to me first, how lightly they walked upon it. It was a fascination tinged with a slight nostalgia – a longing for a simpler, better time. But as the years pass, I am discovering that the ways of the Bushmen of southern Africa have as much to teach us about the present and future as they do about the past. They may be the oldest living culture on Earth, with a spirituality that predates all the world’s religions, but their approach to life still remains a source of great wisdom – their nomadic, hunter-gathering way of life, not using more than needed and making the most of all that you have, the importance of community, and working to live not living to work.
Their customs, traditions and beliefs have been well-documented, held onto for long after the different San tribes began to fade, on the rocks of numerous caves across Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. One of the best places to view their rock paintings is the Cederberg Mountains of the Cape, and here at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat.
We caught up with Londi Ndzima, the Rock Art Curator at Bushmans Kloof, to find out more about their numerous sites and the stories behind them. Discover more below in our Q&A.
10 QUESTIONS WITH LONDI NDZIMA
1. What does nature mean to you?
Peace and quiet; the outdoors for me is the best place to be.
2. Explain your love of rock-art and the stories it has to tell about the people of the Cederberg.
The history of the hunter gatherer/San people is very similar to that of my own people, The Xhosa. Even down to things like using local plants for medicine, the role of ‘community’ and the art of storytelling. Through the rock art, one gets an insight into how they lived, who and what they came into contact with and what was important and significant to them. Through the ongoing research into rock art, there is constantly new information becoming available and I feel really privileged to be able to share these perspectives and insights with visitors.
3. Why is holding onto and preserving the past important to you?
Because there are no written accounts of the lives of the San & Khoi people in the area, we have to rely on what they did leave behind… in this case, these paintings.
4. Explain your passion for storytelling?
My Grandmother used to regale us with stories as children; about our culture, our traditions and ceremonies, such as when a boy kills his first eland which marks his entry into manhood and means that he is eligible for marriage. These stories connected us/ me to our history and our ancestors. I have loved telling stories about the San and Khoi, through the interpretation of their art.
5. How have you continued to learn so much about the Bushman and their way of life?
Being exposed to the ongoing research through my relationship with Prof John Parkington and others researchers and specialists; as well as by reading reading reading; and talking to people from around the world (many of whom visit Bushmans Kloof). I learn every day and I’m able to bring all this knowledge to our guests.
6. What makes Bushmans Kloof such a special place for people to learn about the rock art?
There are so many amazing sites on the property, over 130, each offering its own unique bit of information and each a small piece in the puzzle of rock art in the Cederberg area. Having a Rock Art Curator on the property certainly enhances visitor experiences.
7 & 8. What has your role as rock art curator here, and / your knowledge of the Bushman taught you about yourself, love and life?
I have fallen in love with nature, working at Bushmans Kloof. It’s really strange because when I was young I loved maths (I wanted to be an engineer) and now I love history and medicinal plants. Quite a change… but I love my life exactly as it is now.
9. Where in the world are you the happiest and why?
Taking a walk in the rocks at Bushmans Kloof… the light here is amazing.
10. Words to live by?
– Mentor – I’d like to leave a legacy of my love for what I do.
– Happy – I want people to have fun and be happy when they are around me.
– Learn – I want to keep learning and sharing.