SIHMA | Scalabrini Institute For Human Mobility In Africa

Footprints in the Desert Sands: Nurturing Resilience and Identity Amidst Loss – A Reflection on the ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape

At the end of a long day of journeying through the spectacularly beautiful desert landscape somewhere between Botswana and Namibia, we were worn out by the sadness of a message of the passing of a beloved cousin. We stepped into the surprising shade of a stone and thatch building: it was the ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape, a World Heritage Site out there between the horizontal red dunes of the Kalahari. The interior of the building enveloped us in large wall murals with compassionate poetry which compared life to footprints in the dessert sand. 

We walked beneath photographs of trees of ‡Khomani sages and we read of their painful journeys away from and back to their collective identity. The walls seemed to be calling out in wisdom: “Human identities are situational and can differ from context to context …” 

Before this visit, I would not have believed that one could be comforted and taught by a building.

I believe that the exquisitely curated stories of loss and affirmation of the ‡Khomani remind us that we are all fragile: our inheritance from the ‡Khomani is the knowledge that we, the inheriting world, should respect, hold, and give space to the human identities caught up in the fluctuations and temper tantrums of our shared world. 

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