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San under the spotlight - Zimbabwe Today
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San under the spotlight


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Although the San community in Zimbabwe is under threat, opportunities that can save them from extinction abound. This is the central message from the film titled “The Last Bushmen of Zimbabwe”.

The film profiles the cultural heritage and contemporary lifestyle of the San community in Gariya and Tsholotsho.

Concerned about the disconnect between the current crop of some members of the San community and their cultural heritage, San elders in 2010 increasingly became convinced that it would be detrimental to allow the demise of their rich cultural heritage.

The spark for launching the San cultural revival and development was ignited when Addi Mavengere and Davy Ndlovu met two years later in 2012.

This gave rise to the idea of a project that would address and re-awaken public awareness on the existence and plight of the San community in Zim- babwe.

Ndlovu had been working with the San community long before the chance meeting with Mavengere.

Ndlovu had gained a high profile as an ambassador of the San community in Zimbabwe.

The actual work required visiting the San communities to experience, first-hand, their plight. They were immediately won over and agreed to assist in bringing San narratives to a national, regional and global audience.

The off-shoot of this shared vision and collaboration was the establishment of the Tsorotso San Development Trust (TSDT).

The shared vision and desire was recording for posterity and preserving the history and heritage of the San people in Zimbabwe.

In documenting the plight of the San community, the project camped with the San community, observed and conducted interviews during the course of making the film.

Ndlovu is the foremost champion of the project as a result of considerable work and research with the San community in Tsholotsho, while Mavengere and Educational Documentary Services came in essentially to put the film together, creating a San reality.

The trio became convinced that the best way of helping the wider Zimbabwean community and others abroad to appreciate the San narratives would be in the form of a documentary.

A significant part of this film was undertaken during 2015.

Explains Mavengere: “It took us so long because the project was resourced by us in our individual capacities, supported by our respective organisations. Work is still in progress documenting the heritage of the San community.

More productions are envisaged, apart from this project.”

Already there is a follow-up project that will undertake a full-film with a scope that covers all the San communities in wards 1, 2, 7, 8 and 10 in Tsholotsho as well as San communities in Plum- tree.

It is estimated that the dwindling San population in Zimbabwe stands perilously at less than 3 000, while the estimated San population in the six Southern African countries — Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe — is less than 120 000.

Botswana has the highest San population in the region at 60 000, followed by Nambya, which has 38 000 and South Africa some 7 500 San.

Doesn’t the film’s title suggest disaster and that there is no hope of saving the remaining San people at least in Zimbabwe?.

Mavengere has a different view: “As Educational Documentary Services (EDS), we create factual films which educate the public.

“First and foremost, in embarking on this project, we wanted the broader public to realise the existence of the San community in Zimbabwe, and particularly the fact that its cultural heritage is on the verge of becoming extinct.

“We wanted audiences across Zimbabwe to see a film that would enable them to have an appreciation of the cultural diversity in Zimbabwe and then figure out where they fit in the scheme of things.

“The film will do well to create awareness and it is certainly our hope that it will air on national or regional television stations, thus affording the San community significant visibility.”

Mavengere believes the film is one of several mediums that can be harnessed to create awareness about the plight of the San community.

Zimbabweans will become aware of the existence of the San community and it is expected the publicity outputs will result in increased efforts at preserving the San and their cultural heritage.

For the three champions of this project, it would be a tragic loss if the San community in Zimbabwe was allowed to disappear especially as the San have called Southern Africa home for much longer than many other communities now settled in this part of the con- tinent.

“As you know,” Mavengere says as if peering into the future, “the Tshwao language is on the verge of extinction in Zimbabwe. However, through our efforts we hope to arrest and reverse the decline of this language and the San cultural heritage.”

For Mavengere, it would be great if they could contribute towards the establishment of a San community museum — something along the lines of the Tonga Community Museum in Binga and the Nambya Community Museum in Hwange. — panorama.co.zw

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