/Xam

I write stories in the original and now extinct language /Xam of the First People of South Africa, the San, using the LloydBleek Collection of linguists Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd available at UCT archives as resource.
I write on archival paper and add earth from places where the San lived.
Below stories told to Lucy Lloyd in the 1870ies by /Kabbo, |han#kasso and La!Kunta
Images of them courtesy of LloydBleekCollection
History of the San history.pdf



Hunting Observances”

written in /xam on 30x30cm Fabriano archival paper
Earth collected in Western and Northern Cape rubbed on top
Original text in /xam Lloyd/Bleek Collection UCT


“We do this when we have shot an Eland, we do not cross its spoor. We walk on one side of the spoor on the side it has sprung away. When we see a bone arrowhead lying we do not pick it up, we leave it. When we see an arrow we lift it and put it under another arrow, we want the arrow with which we have shot the Eland to lie under another arrow for we want the wind not to see it that we may get it to the quiver without the wind seeing it. When the hunter has put the arrow into the quiver he walks home slowly and gently without looking back to the Eland, he looks gently at what he sees in front of him. He gives the Eland peace to die from the poison, the Eland must not be afraid when the poison kills his heart. When the hunter reaches home he stands opposite his hut. The old men go to meet the hunter who has shot the Eland. The hunter speaks to the old men quietly as if he was in pain. He says: “A plant has pierced him”. The old men look at his quiver and they by the hairs on the arrow know what he has shot. They gently look at arrow after arrow until they see the arrow with which he has shot the Eland. Then they put the arrow back into the quiver.”



































A snake found near a graveyard”

written in /xam on 30x30cm on Fabriano archival paper
Earth collected in Western and Northern Cape rubbed on top
Original text in /xam Lloyd/Bleek Collection UCT


“When a man dies he becomes a snake. His snake is his spirit. When a snake bites him and he dies he is a snake. When a woman dies she won’t be a snake. When a snake bites a woman and she dies her spirit is just a spirit. A snake which is near a graveyard do not kill for it is another person. And I do not kill it because I am afraid of it. And if I see it over many days I leave it alone.”











































The young woman who disobeyed her mother and fell in with two lions”

written in /xam on 50x80cm Fabriano archival paper
Earth collected in Western and Northern Cape rubbed on top
Original text in /xam Lloyd/Bleek Collection UCT


A tale of the Early Race in which a lazy young woman’s breast gets stuck in the cleft of a rock. The two Lions (!haue ta ≠hou and !gu) approach her intending to kill her, but she convinces them to go and drink water before eating her. She commands the water to ‘Go away yonder!’ and the Lions follow it in vain. She cuts off her nipple, releasing her breast from the rock, and pounds it together with !kai from the Lions’ bag to make two balls which she leaves at the rock. When the Lions return they wonder where the girl has gone. Her nipple ball answers ‘I am her!’. The two Lions spend the night trying to catch the girl and hurting their teeth biting at the rocks.







!ke e: /xarra //ke

written in /xam on 20x30cm Fabriano archival paper in the shape of a thumb print.
Earth collected in Western and Northern Cape rubbed on top


!ke e: /xarra //ke, written in the /xam language of the San, addresses each individual effort to harness the unity between thought and action.
It is part of the South African Coat of Arms and it’s meaning there is “Unity in Diversity”




























“Leave a trace”
Earth on canvas 110x160cm
Performative collaboration with random people at AfrikaBurn 2015 leaving random traces using earth collected in Western and Northern Cape. Reworked with added layers of earth afterwards.