Accepted paper:

Spatial perception among the San of the central Kalahari: frames of reference in wayfinding practices

Author:

Akira Takada (Kyoto University)

Paper short abstract:

The analysis of wayfinding practices of the G|ui/G||ana showed that neither reliance on human artifacts and natural landforms nor framing experiences in terms of old and new circumstances is mutually exclusive, and they have 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, the Government of Botswana relocated them in permanent settlements and gave an enormous impact on their lifestyle. The G|ui/G||ana use various spatial concepts, which have played important roles in their wayfinding practices, to represent landforms. A |qaa, roughly translated as "dry valley," constitutes an example of such a concept. In this presentation, I analyzed face-to-face interactions that occurred during hunting excursion (1) around a |qaa and (2) in a new geographical setting to understand particular types of their spatial perception. The analysis revealed that their use of the trail of Tswana merchants in the new geographical setting was analogous to their use of |qaa in that they used the trail as a frame of reference to ascertain their relative location. The analysis suggests that neither reliance on human artifacts and natural landforms nor framing experiences in terms of old and new circumstances is mutually exclusive in actual wayfinding practices. The use of folk knowledge is highlighted in the interplay between the accumulated empirical observations and the vivid but imagined attributes associated with the environment, which itself is also in constant flux. Such sensitivity to the environment is necessary to enable G|ui/G||ana people to utilize both |qaa and the Tswana trail as frames of reference in the relatively flat terrain of the Kalahari. Moreover, this sensitivity has motivated the G|ui/G||ana to transform a new geographical setting into their personal environment.

panel P31
"Indigenous" space and local politics