San and technology LO18568

Mnr AM de Lange (
Fri, 3 Jul 1998 15:08:44 GMT+2

Replying to LO18555 --

Dear Organlearners,

It is dangerous to reply to one's own contributions. I refer here to
Subject: Learning & Technology LO18555

But in effect I am replying to a message written by Les Lax
<> on the subject above. I was not sure whether his
message was private, or a copy of a message sent to the LO-list.
So I replied to Les in private, but assuming that it was a copy
which would eventually appear on the LO list. At the end I told him
about this uncertainty. He immediatley responded with:

> My message was indeed "private", as I was not sure that what I had
> to say would be useful to the group. However, please feel free to
> post your own reply if you so wish, there is enough of my mail in it
> to fill in the gaps.

I think that the message is useful because I wanted to tell you for a
very long time about what message the name "Homo sapiens" have for
me. Les' letter created the "fruitful moment" (fourth essentiality)
to do so. It will save me the time to wait until another "fruitful
moment" arises again, which might take many months.

Should Rick allow this rather unusual behaviour, my sincere apologies
for those who may not enjoy it.

Here is my letter to Les.
Dear Leslie,

> I immensely enjoyed your contribution, and recognise that the example of the
> "white woman" was just that.

Thank you very much. As a (former?) South African, you have had the
necessary experiences to make sense out of it. I fear that others who
have no acquaintance with the history of South Africa, might not
understand and thus enjoy it that much. Hopefully they learned
something of the history of this incredible country of us. Hopefully
they will come and tour this country despite the present crime and
violence. If they keep away form the metropolitan centres and
otherwise people loitering, they will be quite safe.

You have probably heard the "clicking" language of the San, almost
devoid of vowels. To hear them singing (while dancing) in vowels
rather than consonants is even a greater experience. They also
have helped to form the language Afrikaans, although much less than
the Xhoi people. Together they have contributed in simplifying the
Gothic derived grammer (declensions and conjugations) of the
Lowland languages (Franconian [Old Dutch] , Frisian and Saxon) in
a manner which makes speakers of other languages wonder whether
Afrikaans still can function.

The influence of the San in the Xhoi languages was much greater, but
mostly of a phonemical nature. They have also influenced phonemically
some Banthu languages, most notably Xhosa.

To hear a San person speaking in Afrikaans (my mother tongue), is a
great experience for me. They do it in a down to earth manner which
sends shivers down my spine. But it also fires fury in my heart for
the Broederbond Afrikaners who decided in their secret meetings that
Afrikaans was the sole possession of white Afrikaners. What a great
tragedy. Afrikaans is an interracial language. It is a natural,
intercultural language and not an artificial one as English because
of the latter merely being the world's lingua franca.

In my last trip to the arid Damaraland in Namibia, I made special
effort to speak with Damaras, again in Afrikaans. They are a very
strange nation. They have been enslaved in the previous century by
the (now Reheboth) Basters (mainly Namaqua, a Xhoi tribe). They
learnt to speak Afrikaans and Nama. But what they have spoken before
their enslavement (original Damara), is now a great mystery. Nothing
of it has survived. Genetically, they have very little ties with the
Xhoi or the Banthu. They remind me very much of the Hamitic
(Abesianian/Erithrean) peoples of North East Afrcia. Their Damara
sheep and cattle are becoming quite famous for their fertlity,
hardiness and resistance to diseases. Anyway, if you ever come to
Southern Africa again, try to speak with a Damara in Afrikaans.
Again, to me, the way in which they do it, makes me breathless.

It was great tragedy when the Apartheid regime (controlled in secret
by the Broederbond) tried to force Afrikaans into the throats of
other people. Les, you yourself, as an English speaking person,
was a victim of it. But under the present ANC government an even
greater tragedy is now happening. Because of the connotations of
Afrikaans (300 years old and still living) with Apartheid (50 years
old and now dead), they try to quench the use of Afrikaans in every
possible manner.

The same happened in Nambia when SWAPO took over. They immediately
declared English as the only official language. For a number of years
the future of Afrikaans became very bleak in Namibia. But in the last
two years a great change has taken place. English is still the ex
officio language, but Afrikaans is now the de facto lingua franca! It
is only the Ovambo majority (the back bone of SAWPO) who still have
anti-Afrikaans sentiments. The rest, i.e Germans, Afrikaners,
English, other Europeans, Hereros, Namas, Damaras, Himbas, Tswanas
speak it openly and unreservedly. On my last trip to Namibia, I often
had to smile at the foolishness of the situation.

> There is another possible example of difference
> (the scene at Battle Cave, Injasuti) that I saw while camping in the
> Drakensberg. This is a striking example of fighting between people, which I
> have been led to believe has not been recorded in other San drawings. Your
> comment about "being hunted" brought it to mind, and fits somewhat with your
> history, as the drawings are supposed to be relatively recent.

I know of it, but never had the time to visit it myself. My problem
is time, time, time. There are so many things which I have to do to
become livelier, surer, wholer, etc (7 essentialities). It is also
the case with anthropology in general and the history of the San in
particular. I have visited many of their drawings and discovered a
few myself in far remote places.

I have always asked those San which I had met what these drawings
mean. Their answers invariably were somethink like "dit vertel van
ons lewe lank gelede". (It tells of our life long ago.) At first
these answers frustrated me. But later on the invariance gave me a
clue. They simply have no other "gut" (tacit based) concepts to
enrich the complexity of what they meant. Then, one day, as I was
sitting at the mouth of that very Wonderwerk Cave, gazing over the
vast stretch of land, trying to let the antiquity of what I saw flow
into me, trying to fit their drawings into the landscape in front of
me, it struck me like a bolt of lightning. They have been depicting
their paradigm, a very fixed one: hunting freely.

> Perhaps you know more about this?

It is very difficult to accurately date San drawings. Despite this, I
think your explanation is very good. I have not thought of myself and
want to thank you on this one, fitting another piece of the puzzle.

If you ever come to South Africa again, try to visit the Wonderwerk
cave. Unfortunately, most of the findings there are deposited at the
McGreggor museum in Kimberley. So, you will have to go there first.
But first visit Taung in the North West province. Coming from
Johannesburg, you will first go through the Hartsriver valley and its
immense irrigation farming. But then, leaving this modern world by
travelling over a low mountain range, you will enter the Dry
Hartsriver valley. Immediately the antiquity of the landscape will
strike you. It is here where the so called "Taung child" has been
uncovered - linking H erectus with H sapiens.

The Wonderwerk cave is indeed a wonder. The emergence of Homo sapiens
from Homo erectus was roughly about 200 000 (+/- 50 000) years ago.
They both belong to what is known as the family Homonidae (large
brain, erect, primates). It means that the first stone implements
(600 000), then fires (500 000) and lastly grass beds (300 000) were
made by Homo erectus. Tools, fire and furniture - other kinds of
technology. Then, "suddenly", the emergence took place. The frontal
lobes of the cranium increased remarkedly. Why?

I think it had very much to do with speaking and drawing - depicting
the "inner side of reality" in the "outer side of reality" and vice
versa - something which we today know as Information Technology. The
sad thing is the the name "information technology" does not tell what
the emergence of Homo sapiens was about. The name "homo sapiens"
tells the story much better.

The word "homo" comes from the Greek prefix "homo" meaning "having
something in common". So the homonoids have something in common.
What? I think it is the fact that among creative creatures, they
began to create artifacts for a DIVERSITY of purposes. Other
creatures like birds (nests) and animals (dugouts) also create, but
with a "single mindedness" which we call "instinct". One almost an
exception is the family of paradise birds in Papa Guinia. They have
created a diversity of things, but in their case their "single
mindedness" or "instict" is art. Yes, Les, art in the most exquisite
forms of expression!

The word "sapiens" comes from the Latin "sapientia" meaning
"wisdom". To me it was very fortunate that the human species was
never given the name "Homo informatica". It is also extremely
saddening to me that we could very well today have given the name
"Homo informatica" to the human species, considering the fact how far
too many of them are behaving presently. The essense of humanity is
not information, but wisdom. How I wish with all my heart that every
human would know about this essence. All the problems created by
humankind is because of a lack of wisdom. Humans are simply not
living up to the name given to them, namely Homo sapiens.

Let us have one vision for the future - to make the next millenium
the Proper Era of Homo Sapiens - those creatures who have wisdom (not
technology) in common. Tecnology is but merely one of the fruits of

Leslie, I am not sure whether your message is private or a copy of
one posted to the LO list. I have replied to it in such a manner that
I will also be able to post it to the LO list. Please forgive me for
not writing on a more personal manner, nor in Afrikaans. You have
expressed your desire for me to write in Afrikaans, especially so
because you seldom encounter it where you now are. After all, it is
not a lingua franca of the world, although it is a lingua franca of
Southern Africa. If your message was indeed private, but you feel it
might be of value to the LO-list, you may mail it to all the others.

Finally, some local news. In the past week both Nelson Mandela and
Thabo Mbeki (grey heads) told the SACP (communists) and COSATO
(socialists) in very, very clear terms that the alliance between the
ANC and the SACP+COSATO is in danger should they continue trying
to undermine the ANC's policy to rebuild the country. Their messages
were most welcome to the rest of the rainbow nation. Unfortunately,
there is one thing which worries me. The SACP and COSATO are loaded
with young people (hotheads) coming from the "educaton gap" (1976 -
1990) when the ANC had the policy of "liberation before eduation" to
use kids in destabelising the country. I think it worries the ANC

It shows us once again -nothing is more important than learning.
Or as our former prime minister Jan Smuts (the father of holism)
might have put it - the flow from the outer to the inner.

Best wishes
Best wishes once again


At de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre for Education University of Pretoria Pretoria, South Africa email:

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