The ‡Khomani Cultural Landscape inscripted as a World Heritage Site

08 July 2017


At its 41st session taking place in Krakow, Poland from 02-12 July 2017, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee has inscribed on its prestigious world heritage list, the ‡Khomani Cultural Landscape.

This landmark inscription amplifies the ‡Khomani San unique cultural heritage  and add to the other eight  South African world heritage sites in: Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa, Maloti-Drakensberg Park (Transboundary with Lesotho), Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, Vredefort Dome, Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape, Robben Island Museum, iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas.

The ‡Khomani and related San people are unique in that they descend directly from an ancient population that existed in southern Africa some 150,000 years ago, the ancestors of the entire human race.

The red dunes of the ‡Khomani Cultural Landscape are strongly associated with this unique culture stretching from the Stone Age to the present, thus making it a landscape that has changed little from a time long ago when humans were mainly hunter gatherers.  The ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape has been home to at most a few hundred people who have survived life in the extreme desert landscape of the southern Kalahari through their knowledge of the land. Particular to their practices is their ways of physically defining the land through designated uses of the different parts; how their movements were organised as well as other significant cultural practices.

The landscape which covers an area of 959,100ha in Dawid Kruiper District Municipality covers the entire Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (KGNP) and forms part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park which is bordered by Botswana and Namibia in the east and west respectively.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr. Edna Molewa welcomes the recognition of the ‡Khomani cultural traditions at a global level and acknowledges the significant role played by the ‡Khomani community on the successful inscription of the site.  The Minister has committed that government will ensure its protection and transmission to future generations.  The South African National Parks (SANParks), which already manages the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, will also ensure that the integrity of the outstanding universal value of the property is sustained and that the ‡Khomani community will continue to be involved and benefit from their cultural heritage, she said.

In her acceptance speech, the Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Nosipho Ngcaba assured the World Heritage Committee and the ‡Khomani community of South Africa’s commitment to support these efforts and ensure that the integrity of the outstanding universal value is not only sustained but also strengthened to boost the economic development of the area, contribute to job creation, enhance tourism experiences and contribute to skills development. The Director General expressed,  on behalf of South Africa,  congratulations to the governments of Angola and Eritrea for the inscription of their first world heritage sites. Further appreciation is extended to the governments of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger for the expansion of W National Park of Niger to W-Arly-Pendjari Complex.

In his address to the session, a member of the ‡Khomani San community in the Kalahari, Mr. Dirk Pienaar, remarked that “the decision that was taken today marks a long awaited historical moment for us the ‡Khomani San and all other San|Bushman communities. As one of the most researched and documented cultures in the world, it was finally acknowledged for its universal value and importance.  This listing will thus provide a foundation for us to continue to preserve, protect and practise our ancient culture and traditions with minimum threat of extinction within the current society.”

He promised that the community will never stop to respect and nurture their culture as transferred from generation to generation. “Conservation for us is not a planned action or a buzz word to use to impress when needed.  It is neither a choice but a way of life which is instilled within all San people from a very tender age.” He concluded by giving special thanks to all the elderly within the community including “Oupa Dawid Kruiper and Ouma! Una Rooi who died sadly whilst fighting for our cause.”

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