Twyfelfontein - Afrikaans for doubtful fountain. That is the name of our current location. This area was inhabited by Stone-Age hunter gathers dating back from around 6,000 years ago. We first did a hike to see their engravings which are dated back from 2,000 -5,000 years ago. These engravings were the way people communicated during this time period- sort of like modern day books. They used granite stone to create these engravings for maps, art, and express their sightings to others. These people were nomadic, they followed the food and water supply. No one person owned any land around here. The land belonged to the people or everyone. The first "white" settler here was a family from Germany of Jewish descent. They built a stone house and "claimed" the land as their own - a truly foreign concept to the local tribes here. After 20 years, these foreigners finally returned the land to the Namibian government. In 2007 UNESCO approved Twyfelfontein as Namibia's first World Heritage Site - it contains over 2,500 items of ancient rock carvings that are time capsules of Namibias past. Truly remarkable history to see and be apart of here.
After we left Twyfelfontein and did our hike, we drove to Damara Living Museum, which was about 15 minutes away. What is a living museum you ask? It is truly remarkable - native people from this area recreate their history in a live form which we get to become apart of. This is as close as anyone can be to the traditional Damara culture - which does not exist anywhere else in the world. The bushmen in Damara belong to the oldest nations of Namibia. Their original culture was a mixture of an archaic hunter-gather culture and herders of cattle, goats and sheep. Because of their friendly and nomadic nature, the Damara people were not able to defend themselves against aggressors during the colonization of Namibia. This is one of the reasons why the culture has fallen into oblivion. You can only experience the culture at this Living Museum. The boys got see the men make a fire from a stick and piece of wood. We also got to see the women making jewelry out of ostrich egg shells and seeds. We also got to see the "pharmacy" - a medicine woman with different plants to make teas to heal alignments. We also learned that if a man could not hunt or make a fire, he was not able to get a wife or family. The head chiefs would settle disputes over a strategic game called II Hus. Whichever chief lost this game would loose his wife, land, cattle, goats and self respect. Some of the greatest chiefs would play this game for 3-4 days before someone would win. This was how this peaceful tribe resolved conflict rather than war or fighting. Can we learn something from the past?
On our drive, we also learned this remarkable lesson:
In 1935 a copper and gold mine were closed down in Northern Namibia. The local people from Angola would travel down in search of jobs in the mines. For political reasons the mines kept closing down and reopening. It was hard for the Angola people to travel back home to Angola and then back down to Namibia for work. The people decided to set up a camp here, in the Darmalands, so they are closer for work. Every morning the elders would travel to the mines in search of work. Sometimes they were able to get jobs but sometimes not. While the elders were out working, the young boys were responsible for gathering food and fire wood for the camp site. One day, the boys had been traveling far in search of wood and they were hot and tired. They decided to chop down a damarana tree to use as fire wood. The boys used the damarana tree as fire wood to cook the kudu that had been recently killed to supply the camp's dinner. That night, everyone at the camp ate dinner, sat around the fire and told stories. All the people went to bed and the next morning, none of the elders showed up for work at the mine fields. Other people at the mine field were worried because these elders came in search of work here every single morning. Someone from the mining company went in search for them. When he got to the camp, he found everyone dead. Apparently this damarana tree plant contains milk that is extremely poisonous- enough so that the smoke from the branches that cooked the meat could kill over 20 people. The local tribes in Northern Namibia know about this poison and the only reason this tragedy happened was because this group was from Angola. Our guide also told us certain animals will come to this plant and suck a tiny amount when they are sick. It kills everything in their stomach in order to heal them. The animals have an amazing instinct to do this!
Our guide also told us that the local tribes use a tiny drop of this poison on their arrows to help kill large animals that they are hunting. When they cook the meat killed from this poison, the elders take another plant to cook this meat in to make it safe for everyone to eat.
Again, we keep telling the boys do not touch anything! Hopefully this story will be a good reminder for them to listen to this advice!