Traces and Tracks: a thirty-year journey with the San

Paul Weinberg
02 Jul 2018

Traces and Tracks is the culmination of a 30-year journey that photographer Paul Weinberg undertook with the San of southern Africa, beginning in 1984. He had previously studied the San at university and was aware of their special relationship with nature, survival skills, and their hunter-gatherer existence. 

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Celebrated filmmaker, John Marshall, was Weinberg’s first guide to the San, but nothing could have prepared him for what he was about to see. Many of the San men in Eastern Bushmanland had been recruited into the South African army to fight against SWAPO, who at the time were engaged in a struggle for independence and liberation. In this first encounter, he witnessed signs of a society under severe pressure, grappling to hold on to their land, way of life, culture, and values. The conversion of a people’s way of life that was dependent on the land into cash wages from the South African army created traumatic circumstances for the San. As Weinberg notes, "My collective journeys [...] have been to understand and document the conundrum between these peace-loving communities and the challenges they face in a modern and fast-changing world. How can they hold onto and share their culture, heritage, and skills with others who wish to dispossess them? How can their lifestyle be accommodated into various shifting ecologies?"