!Nara harvesters of the northern Namib: retrieving disrupted socio-ecological pasts through on-site oral histories
Sullivan, S. and Ganuses, W.S., with ||Hoëb, F., Ganaseb, N., Tauros, C.D., Ganaseb, M., Sanib, R., |Awises, S., |Nuas, H. and |Nuab, F.
Abstract. The endemic plant !nara (Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. ex Hook.f.) of arid south-western Africa has been associated in contemporary and historical times with use, exchange and cultural values for Khoe-speaking peoples living in the !Khuiseb River valley in Namibia. Oral histories recorded since the 1990s in the Namib north of the !Khuiseb, however, indicate that until recent decades !nara harvesting and husbanding were also central for several land-and-lineage groups (!haoti) of Khoe-speaking peoples in this more northerly area. Memories of places, life events and livelihood practices in the western reaches of ephemeral rivers north of the !Khuiseb have now been documented through returning with elderly people to localities of past dwelling in these areas. These are places from which people were progressively excluded, as access to the coastal areas of this northern part of Namibia became restricted for diamond mining (in the 1950s) and latterly due to the establishment of the Skeleton Coast National Park (in 1971). This paper presents material from on-site oral history research in remembered localities now closed to their former inhabitants. In doing so it considers the significance of returning to past places in prompting recollections and re-imaginings of pasts often only present as faint traces (if at all) in formal historical record.
Key words. !nara / Acanthosicyos horridus; on-site oral history; memory; cultural landscapes; Khoe / Sān; Namibia; displacement