Yup, I was amazed too as I walked in to the powerful, domed caves in the Motopo National Park in Zimbabwe. On the walls were faded, but still clear paintings of a civilization that first felt the spiritual importance of the area over 100,000 years ago.
The San people have been called many names by the many different foreign cultures that have come upon them through out the times. To the Xhosa people of South Africa they are the Twa. "Butwa" means grass, so the Twa are people who are shorter than grass. The Shona people of Zimbabwe call them "Zvimandionerepi", which literally means, "How far was I when you saw me?", another direct reference to their short frames. When the white Dutchmen encountered the San in South Africa, they called them "People of the bush" because they did not live in houses but rather in caves in the bush. This is where the name Bushmen originated.
On the rare occasion that they did kill a large animal like a buffalo, it was a sacred time and the animal would be consumed at a celebration at the kill-site. This can be seen in the rock paintings they made in their sacred sites.
Scattered throughout the Matopo Hills are large caves with the ancient rock paintings of the San, the most famous cave being the Nswatugi. The Nswatugi Cave is an immense, spiritually powerful cave that was surely used for religious worship, as well as for weather shelter. Excavations at the cave have revealed the existence of human bones over 40,000 years old, believed to be the oldest human remains yet found in Zimbabwe The paintings are believed to be between six and ten thousand years old. The San used plant pigments, animal fats and blood to make this paint that has held up for so many years.
Unfortunately, as newly settling cultures came across the San, they were pushed to different lands. This culture today only exists in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and Namibia. The San have been pushed off the fertile lands in southern and eastern Africa, where they once roamed and are now confined to small reserves in the harsh desert.
As for the Matopos, subsequent conquering cultures were not unaware of the spiritual power of the region, and it continued to be a site of worship by many different conquering groups, including the Ndebele people. Even the founder of the white ruling class in Zimbabwe, Cecil Rhodes, was so moved by the power of the land that he requested that he be buried there when he died.
The blacks lived for centuries close to their sacred lands of the Matopo hills, but in the 20th century the white government decided that the region that housed their founder's grave needed to be protected. Farmers forced the blacks off the land and established the Matopo National Park, thus ending the intimate age-old relationship between native Africans and nature in these hills.
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