Double Vision: Oral Histories of the San

Artists Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm Payne explore the history of the indigenous people of Southern Africa

Origins Centre

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

Introduction to Double Vision
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Histories and stories

In telling the stories of San (specifically the !Kung and |Xam) individual's stories and experiences are told. 

This installation by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm Payne reminds us that  history told through archives is often chaotically and randomly assembled.

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

Pippa Skotnes Books
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Finding the individual in the past

In the 1870s and 1880s Lucy Lloyd and her linguist brother-in-law, Wilhelm Bleek, interviewed many |Xam and !Kung men, women and children. The interviews were transcribed into The Bleek and Lloyd Archives - which are over 12 000 pages long. (Pictured: |Han≠kasso)

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

Many !Kung and |Xam woman, men and children were interviewed. They spoke of their personal stories, culture, beliefs and life histories. The interviews mostly took place at the Bleek family home in Cape Town. (Pictured: Dia!kwain)

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

The installation deals with the construction of identity and the different ways in which the past and personal stories are viewed and remembered. (Pictured: !Kweiten ta ||ken with her children)

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

Da was the youngest !Kung boy interviewed. He arrived in Mowbray, in Cape Town, on the 25th of March 1880 with an older boy, |Uma. The boys were placed in the Bleek and Lloyd household after permission was granted by the Cape ‘Native Department’.

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

The installation displays prints of images produced by the !Kung and |Xam individuals who worked with Lucy Lloyd in the 1870s and 1880s. This drawing was made by 18 year old !Nanni, in 1881. The drawing also includes a transcription, with translation, by Lucy Lloyd.

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

In his interview !Nanni said "I am !Nanni, my mother's little child, older brother to Karu who has died. My elder brother digs a grave because my father cannot. We all weep for my younger brother." 
This work by  !Nanni also includes a transcription and translation by Lloyd.

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

!Nanni also said "In Cape Town I think of home, and paint the things I remember for Lucy" 

It is in the production of these images and transcriptions that the South African motto was iterated. The motto '/ke e: /xarra //ke' means 'diverse people unite'. Lucy Lloyd and the informants symbolize the inaugural enactment of this.

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

Pippa Skotnes Eland Bones
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Eland and Folklore

In the lower section of the installation, powerful phrases of !Kung and |Xam folklore are written on eland bones. The eland is the largest of all the antelope and the one which all San groups agree has the most supernatural potency.

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

Eland bones 'whisper' the beliefs, mythologies and stories of the San.

"I am the small child asleep in the shade of the tree in the heat of the sun...I am the moon who consoles and admonishes the orphaned child"

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

The eland was |Kaggen’s (god’s) favourite animal, according to the beliefs of the |Xam San of the Karoo. 

"I am the flesh of the eland...I am master of the game"

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

Through trance, the San harness the power of the eland, and other powerful animals, so that they heal the sick, bring rain or influence the movements of game.

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

Many informants spoke of loss. The loss of family, the loss of land and the loss of culture. 

"I am the darkness which resembles fear
I am the languages that have no speakers
I am the one who talks to the land"

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

San hunter-gatherers lived in harmony with their natural environment for thousands of years. They were experts in gathering wild plant foods (often in harsh environments) and were skilled hunters and trackers.

"I am the dead man who rose from the ground and rode the rain"

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

These reflective designs stand on either side of the installation. They represent the workings of the brain and DNA, which both describe us as human and identify us as individual.
They also refer to the spirals and geometrics that feature in rock art globally.

Double Vision (2006) by Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm PayneOriginal Source: Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand

The Curators

Pippa Skotnes and Malcolm Payne were both professors of fine art at the Michaels School of Fine Art. Malcolm Payne is now an Emeritus Professor at the school. Skotnes is the Director of the Centre for Curating the Archive. Pippa Skotnes is widely known for her work on the Bleek and Lloyd collection and for her creative interpretation of its content.

Credits: Story

The San (and Khoe) people of southern Africa
Artists: Pippa Skotnes and Malcom Payne
The Bleek and Lloyd Archives (Wilhelm Bleek, Lucy Lloyd) - University of Cape Town.
Online Exhibition Curator: Tammy Hodgskiss

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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