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Patricia Glyn’s What Dawid Knew: A Journey with the Kruipers Launched at The Book Lounge

Patricia Glyn

The heartbreaking, harrowing and exquisitely beautiful stories that fly from eco-adventurer Patricia Glyn’s lips will make your hair stand on end. They will also make you weep and laugh, sometimes at the same time. This was the consensus of many who were at The Book Lounge last week to hear the author describe the remarkable events that went into the making of What Dawid Knew: A Journey with the Kruipers.

What Dawid KnewThe erstwhile radio hostess held the capacity crowd spellbound for almost an hour as she recalled her adventures in the Kalahari with Dawid Kruiper, an elder of the Khomani Bushmen clan. She shared the frustrations and triumps she encountered as she recorded and archived their heritage sites in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, where the elders of the community set about sharing a long-held secret that would teach the youngsters about their history and rapidly disappearing culture.

Glyn described Dawid Kruiper as one of the most renowned Bushmen in South Africa. She emphasised that this was the term he chose to define him and his kinfolk due to the negative associations with the word “San” include “thief” and “dirty”. “Dawid is the elected traditional leader of the Khomani people, who live on the outskirts of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, where until the early 1900s, Dawid’s ancestors lived and hunted freely.

Glynn recalled the claim won in 1999 against the apartheid authorities that had robbed the Khomani of their ancestral land. The 25 000 hectares of land inside the Park that was offered by way of restitution, along with farms outside it, on which the community could live and run tourism businesses, represented a human rights victory in theory.

Glynn said that in the intervening years many factors including a lack of transport into the park had conspired to prevent the community from accessing all but a small portion of the land. Dawid Kruiper, in his late 70s, was desperate to return to some of the places of great historical and cultural significance that he hadn’t seen since his youth, places his grandchildren had never set eyes on. Aware of his impending death, he approached Glyn with an urgency. “The old man knew that when he died much of his knowledge would vanish with him,” she said.

With South African National Parks’ (SANParks) permission to camp and walk anywhere they needed to visit, the extended Kruiper clan set off with Glyn and her team of film makers to visit a range of sites, both sacred and profane. Battle grounds and hunting grounds, birth places and burial grounds were recorded for posterity and form the core of the story which Patricia was requested to tell.

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Liesl Jobson tweeted live from the event using the hashtag #livebooks:

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