08 November 2010

Khoikhoi huts - Then and now

One of the 3 theme areas in the Biodiversity Garden is 'People and Plants' - where we wanted to show how much biodiversity is part of our lives: how we eat it, use it for medicine, shelter and that it's an integral part of our language and culture. To put it clumsily but succintly : we are because of biodiversity - it is integral to our lives.

Included is a stylised display of what life may have looked like about 500 years ago at the Cape, when the Khoikhoi herders were living here.

There are some domed huts (reminiscent of matjieshuise) surrounded by grassy renosterveld, some fat-tailed sheep and a fire hearth area with artefacts such as bones, ostrich shells and shells.

That same area - a few months before. Drainage required in fire hearth area.

The Khoikhoi made domed huts using local materials: wood for the frame, reeds to make mats and animal gut to tie it all together. The huts were cool inside, lightweight, and easy to put up and take down - well-suited to their nomadic lifestyle, in search of grazing for their livestock.

So who would be able to do a modern interpretation of this concept, using today's local materials? Enter Stephen Lamb (of Touching this earth lightly). He rose to the challenge and made these beautiful structures from invasive alien myrtle wood. They are modelled on the traditional matjieshuis, using modern materials and techniques to make them more durable. The wood was harvested at new moon, so that it would require no chemical preservative.

Here is the first hut, shown as if still under construction.

And a few months later, after the planting and interpretive signage is in place...

For one of the huts Stephen used animal hide ties - just like the riempies and bokderms of old...

The canvas is a modern touch, providing some welcome shade.

I just love the juxtaposition of the huts and the Stadium.

Andrew - seen here stitching canvas onto the hut.

The domed Khoikhoi huts served as inspiration for the Shade Dome - more about that in the next post.

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