The Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project is an exemplary model of how to turn natural resources into a means of local development and empowerment. The project draws its inspiration from the rich archaeological resources in the Clanwilliam area (most importantly, rock paintings by South African hunters and gatherers which date back several thousand years), and uses this as material for learning programs and job development.
Key to the project is its concept of landscape – one that encompasses not only scenery and panorama, but also the people who produce, work, and live within it. The project hosts local and visiting school groups, teaching a set of courses inspired by the Clanwilliam surrounds.
Its main strength is its focus on history lived actively. One travels with a guide in an off-road vehicle through mountainous terrain, then treks on foot in search of remnants of pre-colonial history: rock paintings, records of life before written history. The journey is supplemented with informal talks with locals, thus giving students or tourists a feel for the community and its past, while creating, at the same time, an empowering form of work.
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It does not hurt, of course, that all this takes place in an area so rich and beautiful. Checking out rock paintings under a blanket of a clear night sky, taking a swim-break in the local dam during twilight, or climbing mini-mountains with breathtaking views of Namaqualand all add to the allure of history in motion.
Through its rock art trail, craft shop, and school teaching, the program is a successful way to empower people by harnessing tourism to power small businesses – it’s definitely worth the experience.