The ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site holds significant importance as it is part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, spanning Botswana and bordering Namibia.
Traversing landscapes of space and time, the Kalahari is renowned for its rich cultural and tourism offerings along the Kalahari Red Dune Route. This route encompasses small communities such as Mier, Ashkam, Noenieput, and Andreisvale, which are still home to the world’s oldest ancient tribe, the ǂKhomani.
The echoes of the ǂKhomani resonate through centuries, narrating the stories of its people. Pulsating through the Kalahari, the treasure of this ancient tribe will be shared with all as Minister of Tourism, Patricia de Lille, inaugurated the R3.5 million Twee Rivieren (ǂKhomani) Interpretative Centre and Narrative Development Project today.
“I am delighted and deeply honored about the launch of the Twee Rivieren Interpretative Centre project in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as it pays homage to the unique culture of the ǂKhomani San. Through this centre, the Department of Tourism has empowered the local community to proudly share the narrative of their captivating culture with thousands of tourists who visit the park annually,” stated Minister De Lille.
The Interpretative Centre ingeniously combines modern design with ancient wisdom, providing a distinctive stop for tourists at Twee Rivieren Rest Camp. The exhibition installation offers visitors a demonstration of the cultural and natural heritage of the park, ensuring an immersive experience. It encompasses the collection of narratives and storylines from the local ǂKhomani communities within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
The ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site holds significant importance as it is part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, spanning Botswana and bordering Namibia. The park’s value lies in its compelling history and rich cultural heritage, with the original inhabitants, the ǂKhomani, living nearby and contributing to the park’s interpretation. Despite its cultural richness, there was no interpretation center to provide visitors with a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of the cultural landscape. Besides its cultural significance, the World Heritage Site boasts two essential biomes with diverse fauna, attracting visitors from across the globe.
Minister De Lille stated, “The objectives of this initiative are to enhance the overall visitor experience in the Red Dune Kalahari Region, facilitate educational trips for school groups, and provide entrepreneurial opportunities for the local communities.”
The project scope of work includes converting an existing old building into the Interpretative Centre, located at the heart of the Twee Rivieren rest camp, which serves as the primary access point for visitors from South Africa. The project, completed in March 2023, also features a Market Tree (Selling Point) where San crafters can sell their products.
“The Department of Tourism funds this R3.5 million project, and SANParks has been appointed as the Implementing Agency. It is situated in a rural node within the Northern Cape Province, one of the regions identified by the government for socio-economic development. The Department has supported several projects within the region, all with socio-economic benefits for the San communities,” added the Minister.
Ms. Hapiloe Sello, the Chief Executive Officer for South African National Parks, expressed pride in being the custodian of the project, showcasing the rich culture of the Khomani and Mier communities, and the reason behind Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park’s inclusion as one of the World Heritage Sites in South Africa. She commended the Department of Tourism for their interest and support in preserving this important heritage for the future.
“This center is a remarkable achievement, and it would not have been possible without the collective input of the ǂKhomani, experts in history and anthropology, and SANParks in the research and development of the narrative. It exemplifies how Parks and Communities can collaborate for the greater good. This center is about the people, by the people, and for the people,” concluded Ms. Sello.
To further strengthen this project, the Department of Tourism has implemented tourist guide training for ten (10) beneficiaries from the Khomani and Mier communities. The learners have completed training as both Nature and Culture Site Guides for the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park and surrounding areas. This training will enable the communities to directly benefit from the interpretation center and tourism activities in the area. Additionally, the interpretation center will ensure that tourist guides have access to comprehensive, factually correct, and objective information.
“I encourage tourists visiting the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to explore the Twee Rivieren Interpretative Centre and take a guided hike with a ǂKhomani tourist guide to learn about the wisdom, customs, and folklore of this ancient tribe. Without it, no tour to the Kalahari will be complete,” the Minister concluded.