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The MARA programme is concerned with redressing the history of the misunderstood former ‘Transkei’ region of Matatiele, where southern KwaZulu-Natal meets the north Eastern Cape.

The majority of Matatiele residents speak both fluent SeSotho and isiXhosa and some still speak the fast disappearing dialect SePhuthi – the language of the BaPhuthi people. The region was first home, however, to San hunter-gatherers and their ancestors for thousands of years.

These foragers experienced the arrival of farming communities – African farmers, Griqua and Colonists. The heritage of all the constituents of the Matatiele community is rich with the history of the interaction between these cultures.

The MARA programme aims to derive information from oral traditions as well as archaeological excavation and the study of rock paintings in the many sandstone caves of the southern Maloti-Drakensberg.

Dr Sam Challis is the principle investigator. The project is funded by the National Research Foundation. Website.