Accepted paper:

Frames of reference in wayfinding practices among the San of the central Kalahari

Authors:

Akira Takada (Kyoto University)

Paper short abstract:

I analyzed the wayfinding practices of the G|ui/G||ana and found that they relied on human artifacts and natural landforms; they also framed their experiences in terms of both new and familiar conditions. Thus, they transformed a new geographical setting into their personal environment.

Paper long abstract:

Two groups of San, the G|ui and G||ana, have lived in the central part of the Kalahari Desert. However, their lifestyle has changed since the Government of Botswana relocated them to permanent settlements, and their hunting and gathering activities appear to have declined. They have relied on various spatial concepts, which have played important roles in their wayfinding practices. A |qaa, roughly translated as "dry valley", is an example of such a concept. In this presentation, I analyze interactions during hunting excursions (1) around a |qaa and (2) in a new geographical setting to understand the ways in which they perceive their environment. I found that their use of Tswana merchants' trails in the new geographical setting was analogous to their use of |qaa in that they used the trail as a frame of reference to determine their relative location. Utterances, gestures, and other semiotic resources were used effectively for this purpose. My analysis suggests that their wayfinding practices relied on human artifacts and natural landforms and they framed their experiences in terms of both new and familiar conditions. Folk knowledge played a major role in their integration of accumulated empirical observations with the imagined attributes of their environment, which were also in constant flux. Such sensitivity to the surrounding environment is necessary to enable G|ui/G||ana people to orient themselves in the relatively flat terrain of the Kalahari. Moreover, this sensitivity has motivated them to transform a new geographical setting into their personal environment.

panel P009
Sociality on the move: finding the way through hunter-gatherer ecological knowledge