The Kalahari, known for its vastness and captivating landscapes, is also home to the rich cultural heritage of the ǂKhomani, the world’s oldest ancient tribe. Nestled within the Kalahari Red Dune Route, which winds through small communities like Mier, Ashkam, Noenieput, and Andreisvale, lies the ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site. This area, forming part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, now proudly showcases its cultural and natural heritage with the inauguration of the R3.5 million Twee Rivieren (ǂKhomani) Interpretative Centre and Narrative Development Project.
On a momentous day, the Minister of Tourism, Patricia de Lille, unveiled the Interpretative Centre, a project that not only celebrates the ancient wisdom of the ǂKhomani but also brings forth modern design to provide an immersive experience for tourists visiting the Twee Rivieren Rest Camp within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Minister De Lille expressed her delight and deep honor as the Centre pays homage to the unique culture of the ǂKhomani San. The project, funded by the Department of Tourism and implemented by SANParks (South African National Parks), serves as a platform for the local community to share their captivating cultural narrative with the thousands of tourists who visit the park annually.
The ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site holds immense significance as it is part of the larger Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, spanning across borders with Botswana and Namibia. The park’s allure is attributed not only to its compelling history but also to its diverse fauna, making it a prime destination for travelers worldwide.
The Interpretative Centre is a testament to the collaboration between the ǂKhomani people, experts in history and anthropology, and SANParks. The conversion of an existing building into the Centre was completed in March 2023, providing a central location for tourists entering the park from South Africa. Moreover, the project includes a Market Tree (Selling Point) where skilled San crafters can display and sell their products, offering entrepreneurial opportunities for the local communities.
Ms. Hapiloe Sello, the Chief Executive Officer for South African National Parks, expressed pride in showcasing the rich culture of the Khomani and Mier communities, a significant reason why the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was designated as one of South Africa’s World Heritage Sites.
The Twee Rivieren Interpretative Centre also holds potential to enhance the overall visitor experience in the Red Dune Kalahari Region. Educational trips for school groups will be facilitated, and the project aims to boost socio-economic development in the rural Northern Cape Province, where the Centre is situated.
To ensure the Centre’s success and empower the local communities, the Department of Tourism has invested in tourist guide training for ten beneficiaries from the ǂKhomani and Mier communities. These learners completed training as both Nature and Culture Site Guides for the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park and surrounding areas, allowing them to directly benefit from the Centre and tourism activities in the region.
Minister De Lille encouraged tourists visiting the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to experience the Twee Rivieren Interpretative Centre and take a guided hike with a ǂKhomani tourist guide. Such an adventure promises to offer profound insights into the wisdom, customs, and folklore of this ancient tribe, enriching their journey through the Kalahari.
In conclusion, the Twee Rivieren Interpretative Centre stands as a beacon of heritage and cultural preservation, a collaborative endeavor by the ǂKhomani people, SANParks, and the Department of Tourism. As tourists traverse the landscapes of space and time within the Kalahari, the resounding echoes of the ǂKhomani’s stories will leave an indelible mark on those who embrace the journey. The Centre is not merely a destination but a celebration of the people, by the people, and for the people.