The San are the oldest surviving race on earth, and recent studies show that they may even have survived the ice age. They are also among the oldest rock- and cave artists on the planet. Their rock art can be seen all over South Africa, but over many ages they have been persecuted, suppressed, exploited and marginalized by African tribes from the north and European colonialists from the south. Until the nineteenth century, they were even hunted down for their skins and bones, sought after by anthropologists.
In the seventies, the Kruiper clan was driven from its last home to a patch of empty desert. Since then, their population has shrunk radically due to hunger, poverty, accidents, and illnesses transferred from the West. In their new settlement they can’t survive in their traditional ways of hunting and gathering, they are exposed to constant hunger and malnutrition, and their health and resistance to illnesses are extremely fragile. The health facilities that they depend on are difficult to reach and badly equipped.
Currently the Kruiper San mainly survive through an informal small business, selling their art and crafts to tourists from South Africa and abroad in and near the Kgalagadi Tranfrontier Park. However, their interaction with tourists poses a very real danger, as it presents the risk of them contracting Coronavirus, which they are unlikely to survive.
With these concerns in mind, we contacted Kruiper San community leader, Oupa Jan Pietersen, to ask him how the Kruiper San are protected against the virus. According to Oupa Jan, the Kruiper San do not have any access to masks, sanitizers or even soap, and their access to water is very limited. “Only the Lord protects us”, he writes, and we survive only through our business with tourists.”
Recently, a five week lockdown against the Coronavirus was announced by the South African government, which means that the San will at least be protected from tourists for that time. However, in the very likely event of the virus having a continued effect over a longer period of time, they will either be exposed to the virus or cut off from their last means of survival and income.
We came up with the idea of creating alternative jobs for the Kruiper San, at least for the short winter season between June and August in the Southern Hemisphere, as artists and craftsmen at their settlement, but we cannot do this without the help of the community.
If we can financially support them to create their art during this time, their artworks will be resold by The Breytenbach Cultural Centre in Wellington near Cape Town, a multi-cultural and community center for training in and interaction with fine arts, music, drama, writing skills and community upliftment, for a profitable amount once the lockdown has lifted. The Kruiper San will receive the profit, and will be promoted as artists which will improve their chances of long-term survival.
With a budget of $8 700, we can temporarily protect the Kruiper San from the tourists who are on the one hand their only source of income and on the other hand pose a danger of annihilating the last survivors of their ancient race.