San descendants to safeguard mountains

Ishmael Sabodien, Jan Orris, Shereen Matthews, Sharon Brink, Stephen Fritz and Dean Liprini have a proposal to protect hikers and the mountain's sacred sites.

There is a proposal in place which could do way more than protect hikers from danger; it is a win-win vision which would protect the mountain’s sacred sites – and its people.

The recent spate of brutal stabbings on the mountain, the last of which was fatal, has brought together the South Coastal Aboriginal Customary Council and Dean Liprini of the Sacred Sites Foundation; with solutions in mind.

“What we envision has a security aspect for hikers — we have people who are experts in security whom we could place at strategic points on the mountain and they could keep in radio contact from lookout points… but it is also so much more than that,” Mr Liprini explains.

“We have the chance here to empower the Ocean View Khoi and San descendants; in three important ways,” he said.

He elaborates: “One, by understanding their ancient connection to this land, and creating a recognised spiritual custodianship of the area for them to fulfil. Two, by recognising that there is a booming market of mindful tourism where people across the world want to learn about indigenous heritage and personally experience a taste of those cultures.

And three, by job creation, by training people from the largely marginalised community of Ocean View to become tourist guides for the area to lead people into the area consciously and work from an Interpretative Centre, established specifically for the promotion of this cultural learning.

“It need not be only tour guides: we are looking at creating opportunities for the Khoi and San culture to be experienced, whether it is the local cuisine to be cooked and shared, or indigenous gardens to be planted and the uses of the plants to be explained. Could be that we lift the community enough for some experiential Air Bnbs to be established. Our goal is to create a an Interpretive Centre,” he says, “where local and international people can visit to learn about the history and culture of our first people.”

The Sacred Sites Foundation of South Africa was initiated by Mr Liprini, author of Pathways of the Sun, who has spent over 20 years researching sacred sites in consultation with recognised academics world-wide and holders of indigenous knowledge.

They have identified what they call the “perfect spot” for the centre in Sun Bird Valley where there is already a building which is largely unused.

Ishmael Sabodien, known as Ishsaqua, is a member of the South Coastal Aboriginal Customary Council.

He is fluent in the Khoi language, and customs. He teaches both in a series of programmes supported by Johann Kikillus which is aimed at re-introducing these customs to the children of Ocean View and their families.

“You must understand, the name and the language of our people is exactly that. It means ‘our people” – a diverse people – we don’t see colour. We are all people of this land. We want to reconnect every person with the history we all share: when we speak about custodianship we don’t mean ownership. We are referring to a care-taking of the land,” he said.

Mr Sabodien worked for SANParks for 25 years as an environmental educator and has a lifetime of experience in the ecological field at his disposal.

He and Jan Orris, the group’s security expert, and Stephen Fritz, a representative of the Royal January family, along with social worker Sharon Brink and youth expert Shereen Matthews, all Ocean View residents and stakeholders in the proposal, met with Mr Liprini and the False Bay Echo on Monday January 29.

Mr Fritz said his great-grandfather was one of the last Khoi warriors. Standing on the bank of the Sun Valley wetlands, he indicates the swathe of land on which his ancestors lived. This was his home, the mountain was his playground as a child. “There are many sacred sites here. As children we were free to play, but we knew there were places you were not allowed to go to, because they were sacred,” he said. He described watching the elders walk to these places for prayer meetings, and knew of caves which were used specifically for healing.

These ancient places, rich with untold history, are not protected, nor recognised on any website. Peer’s Cave, initially a burial cave, shows evidence of 100 000 years of habitation by various peoples over the years.

Mr Liprini said this extremely sensitive archaeological cave had explosives used in it by the man the cave was since named after – and the retrieval of the remains of at least 14 humans, was done roughshod and with no appropriate skill. “Those bones are in a museum storage some place now,” he said.

The Sacred Sites Foundation and the South Coastal Aboriginal Customary Council want this area, and other sacred sites, protected from further desecration.

The caves and sites are still being used for prayer meetings by various cultural and religious groups and while they have no objection to that, they would like to see the sites developed just enough to provide a more sanitary and long-term appreciation of them.

Mr Liprini said: “When people visit the far south, they dash right past all this incredibly rich cultural heritage with absolutely no idea of its value nor of the history of the area. This is seen as a stretch of land on their way to Simon’s Town or Cape Point: but there are focal points for incredible learning – right here.”

At the moment, while these unrecognised sites are used by some, they provide no toilet facilities. “A surreptitious long drop or compost toilet out of sight but available would be one useful option,” he said.

Mr Liprini said according to the constitution, all people are allowed to perform their traditional life-ways ceremonies and they may not be stopped by state or anyone.

Ms Brink said being a social worker in Ocean View is tough. “The community is gang-ridden and the people feel lost, the children are at risk all the time with poverty and drugs and teenage pregnancies. What is needed is an anchor,” she said.

“When we have Heritage Day, so many of our children don’t know what to choose to represent who they are. Even the descendants of the Khoi and San don’t stand up and say ‘this is who I am, this is my family and my heritage’ because it’s not in any books.”

She said the children opt to present their Christianity or being Muslem as their culture because they don’t know what else to do.

“Our children have been robbed of their culture. I want to help them regain it, and it’s not for me, it’s for my children and their children so they can be proud and know that they are part Bushman or part Khoi or whatever their lineage is,” Ms Brink said.

“I want to be part of the change of that. Why should people move out of Ocean View to have a better life? We must create that better life here where we are.

“I want to give these children the sense of their history and reconnect them with that so they can be proud of it,” she said.

Nicki Felbert of Woodstock is so enchanted with the project and the Khoi people that she has been filming a documentary on the progress. She has followed
Mr Liprini on the Pathways of the Sun tours he leads and visited many of the sacred sites first-hand.

“National Geographic’s human genome project places our
Khoi and San people as among the world’s first people. We have
a responsibility to preserve and share this ancient culture,” Ms Felbert said.

Look at her four-minute introductory video on Mr Liprini’s work on:

Alan Winde said: “While issues concerning the mountain are the jurisdiction of SANParks, I do believe that concessions on the mountain for private sector initiatives could definitely contribute to a safety solution. It would be in business’ interest and would stimulate investment and create jobs. Businesses would have a vested interest in the success of their initiatives, and in increasing safety. Public private partnerships such as these, on and around the mountain, would be beneficial. Mr Liprini should re-engage with SANParks regarding his business plan.”

As at the time of going to print, SANParks had not yet responded to our queries.

For further information on the proposal, contact Sharon Brink on 073 294 3657 or or Dean Liprini on