Is this a bushman story?

Can I even say bushman? I’ve heard that the bushmen call themselves bushmen. Is it a Khoisan folktale? I’ve heard the Koi and the San were very different people. To lump them into one word is racist, I have been told. Is it San mythology? The word San has also been seen as derogatory. Maybe it comes from the /Xam? This is a clan of nomadic first people who lived around the Western Cape. Shall we call it a folktale of the first people, the first people of South Africa?

Joce Engelbrecht, the writer and director of this theatre piece, has a special interest in the culture and language of these first people. She is searching for her own story beyond the current narratives of what it means to be coloured in South Africa; what it means to be African but not black; what it means to be human. With Mantis and the Bee Joce has had the task of bringing the bits and pieces of her heritage together into a production that relates to children and their families.

During the creative process the Jungle team challenged themselves with portraying the story without using an existing spoken language.  Gershan Lombard (Khoisan Boyman) was invited to compose music. Kai Goertz made masks and puppets to display the powerful images that emerged from the story. Eva Adams Hart and Donald Barnett painted the beautiful cloths worn by the characters Fire and Rain in the story. The actors, Zizipho, Siya and Monray struggled to invent a language of sounds to convey the meaning of the story. Joce decided to introduce a language called “khoekhoeguwab” which is still spoken in Namibia and the Northern Cape.  The actors found themselves learning this language of the first people. Here they found deeply expressive words to back up the movement and music. A narrator was introduced towards the end of the process to guide the audience in moments of participation.

Bringing this production to children, especially older than 8 years, Jungle Theatre would like to open up the conversation around our heritage. What does this story tell us about where we come from? Can it offer us a different relationship with ourselves and others, a different relationship with our natural environment? Can we find a new identity amongst the ashes of our indigenous cultures and ancestors?