The San used various water sources and even invented a technology to pump water out of the ground. Sip-wells were places where San sucked water through the sand using straws. These places were often situated north of salt pans, with a sand dune at their southern end. To obtain water, the San shovelled the upper layer of the whitish sand to the side. They prepared a hole with their digging stick into which they inserted a straw cut from the Kalanchoe plant, with grass filters attached to lower and upper ends. The sand around the straw was compacted and left for half an hour to accumulate moisture. By using their mouths to create a vacuum, the San sucked water out of the sand and then stored it in ostrich eggs, sealed and buried for later usage.
The San also knew of rare artesian springs that provided fresh water all year round. Rainwater, which collected in rocky depressions, was used but not appreciated as it was often greenish or had a brackish taste. Other sources were pan-like areas that store rainwater for three to nine months. This water was generally only used during the cooler season when mosquitoes were decreasing and the danger of malaria limited. Melon fields in the Kalahari (Tsamma melon are 90% water) and water-bearing tubers were and still are collected by the San throughout the year. Trees, such as Marula and Manketti, have holes where rainwater and dew collect. The San sucked this water from the holes with straws.
Since 1999 !Khwa ttu has provided education, jobs and support to the San – Africa’s First People. The !Khwa ttu San Heritage Centre and Digital Archive is rooted in cultural restitution. Our website provides a platform for San to tell our story in our own ways and to become the cultural custodians, researchers and academics of the future.
Submissions to the !Khwa ttu San Digital Archive are published after adjudication by San administration at !Khwa ttu. Our aim as administrators is to encourage the archive to take its own community shape as a responsible and respectful space for ideas, information and discussion.