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Chapter 8 - Day 3 Afternoon

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2022

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Summary

MM40/69/3316, MM40/69/2763 Dried Monkey Oranges (Strychnos Spinosa)

We presented the elders with two dried monkey orange (Strychnos spinosa) fruits of different sizes. The first (MM40/69/3316) has a diameter of 8 cm and bears an irregular circular perforation of 2.5 cm in diameter (figure 8.1). The second (MM40/69/2763) is 14 cm in diameter and displays a perfectly round perforation of diameter 2.7 cm (figure 8.2). It is entirely decorated with a painted, snake-like pattern.

The fruits were correctly identified as monkey oranges by Tsamkxao ≠Oma and Joa Cwi, who said that they call them tah. They said that women would have transformed the smaller specimen into a musical instrument by putting little black round ‘doma’ seeds or stones inside. They would have either quickly passed it from one hand to the other, or moved it up and down between the palms of outstretched hands while singing (figure 8.3). Although the larger monkey orange could also have been used as a musical instrument, they said the Ju/’hoansi would have used it to store melted eland (Taurotragus oryx) fat, cocoons of !’oan (Diamphidia nigroornata, arrow-poison beetle) larvae for making poison, and sometimes the powder from the kiaat tree (Pterocarpus angolensis) used to make red pigment. We asked whether these containers would have been plugged, and they said yes, the corks are missing. For fat they use a stopper made from a stick, but for kiaat or perfume they use grass. They put the grass together, twist it and then plug the hole with it. When they move, the perfume and kiaat are carried by women, and the fat is carried by men because it is heavier. The best time to collect the monkey orange is in austral May (autumn).

MM40/69/2426 Water Container

This object consists of a bag presenting a pointed stick at one end, around which a rope is wound. Tsamkxao ≠Oma and Joa Cwi immediately recognised it as belonging to their group, and explained that it is a water container made from the stomach of an animal (figure 8.4); they could not identify which animal it came from. It apparently keeps the water very cold. The stomach is removed during butchery and used as is for this purpose until it is damaged.

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San Elders Speak
Ancestral Knowledge of the Kalahari San
, pp. 121 - 168
Publisher: Wits University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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