Scientists will be using the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) near Carnarvon in the Northern Cape to gain information. But the Khoi and San communities will be using the land beneath the radio telescopes to gather knowledge as old as the hills surrounding them and they’ve already struck gold.

It is a reason for celebration. The deal between the SKA and Khoi and San communities has already started paying dividends. The Khoi and San communities are studying indigenous plants, only found in their area.

They were used by their forefathers as food or medicine while archaeologists are having a field day.

They were almost lost to future generations. Until the SKA bought farms from private hands.

In a bygone era, various Khoi and San communities freely roamed the area and lived off the veld. But when settlers came, they were pushed north and for years, they did not have access to this area and important knowledge became lost.

San representative Colin Louw Khomani says: “We were forcefully removed from that place and I think it’s only right that we form part of the project to protect our heritage.”

SKA’s Lorenzo Raynard  says: “The first set of walk-through has results in a number of artifacts being discovered and the process now in participation of the San council is to look at how those artefacts will be preserved.”

The SKA is also gathering tales from the Khoi and San about the sky as well as artworks. Those will eventually form part of an exhibition.

Meanwhile, the future looks bright for the SKA project, with the 67 dishes that make up the Meerkat – its precursor now completed.

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