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The Origin of the World: Creation and Transformation in San dress, narrative and rock art

When: Thursday, 07 September 2023 - Saturday, 30 September 2023
Where: Origins Centre
Braamfontein Campus West
Start time:18:00


We invite you to join us for the opening of a new, temporary exhibition at the Origins Centre, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

There was a time when animals were human, and humans were animal. The time of the Early Race, the time of the First Big Bushman, the time of the Gemsbok People…

In San myth and folklore, we learn about this time, when identities were blurred and relationships between powerful beings of a different nature were social and interacting. After the creation of the Second Order, when animals became animal and humans became human, hunter-gatherers still needed to negotiate these relationships, so that the world as we know it today would not revert into ambiguity and chaos. To dress appropriately was one effective means to do this.

The exhibition aims to disseminate the rich material and embodied culture of San dress practices, and how these made explicit part of a complex cultural discourse encompassing all aspects of life – in myth, ritual, and everyday practice. By fore-fronting a part of San history and culture that is rarely in focus, the exhibition revolves around main features of San dress from a historical hunter-gatherer context - Skin clothing (the apron, the kaross), bags, scarifications and tattoos, beadwork, bhoes, and tortoise shell containers with fragrant buchu - exploring these elements of dress and ornamentation as they appear in the ethnographic material, in San narratives and in the rock art.

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