151 tropes that are united in San cosmology. Trees are significant in the ethnography from both the symbolic and the ecological perspectives.
Ecological significance of trees and plants
The dominance of plants as food and moisture sources in San diet is well established (Lee 1965; Silberbauer 1965: 44-47; Giess & Snyman 1986: 240; Tanaka 1976: 112-113; Hitchcock 1982: 205-223), but relatively little, until recently, of their role in myths, beliefs and symbolism was known. Little has been written â€œabout the total botanical lore of Bushman groupsâ€? (Steyn 1981: 1). Robert Story (1958, 1964), however, studied various uses of tree and plant species in the Kalahari. Some writers (Lee 1965, 1968; Silberbauer 1965, 1981; Heinz & Maguire 1974) also investigated the ethno-botanical knowledge of different Kalahari San groups. While very important, these ecological investigations suggest little allusion to the symbolism of botanical subjects. Even among ethnographers who have worked with the San, there has been no sustained attempt to seek and compile a concordance of references to these subjects in San beliefs and folktales (Biesele, pers. comm.). One exception is Sigrid Schmidt (1980, 1989), who compiled references of Khoisan folklore featuring vegetable subjects from Namibia. This work may not have had the impact in South Africa it should because it is in German. Re-investigating San ethnography reveals a wealth of information on San beliefs concerning trees and plants.
Fig. 15. Flying termites transforming into oval flecks swell around a blossoming tree from Matopo (overleaf)
Published on Dec 31, 2001
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand,Johannesburg, for the degree of Master of Arts. 2002, by Siyakha...