Bushman Heritage Museum, Nieu-Bethesda

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Thursday, 27th December 2018

The Bushman Heritage Museum - A living exploration of ancient wisdom

Contemporary art created by indigenous artists at the Bethesda Arts Centre, in the remote Karoo village of Nieu Bethesda is attracting international attention. For the last twenty years Bushman descendants have been making giant tapestries and lino-prints exploring the creation mythology of the |Xam – stories recorded in the 19th Century, just before the |Xam language became extinct. Now the Bethesda Arts Centre is to become the Bushman Heritage Museum, to make better known this ancient wisdom.
These myths are profoundly relevant to contemporary humanity because they address, through the universal language of  archetypal images, the creation of the universe. This is not achieved by the male-dominating principle, as in most creation mythology, but by the creative feminine. The Sun is created by the old women who work through the children - their mischief, courage, and laughter - to bring warmth and light to the world. The Milky Way is created by a young woman reaching her first menses. The greening of the earth through rain is brought about by the young mother who courageously climbs onto the back of the Rainbull.
Humanity’s doomed project of trying to dominate nature is explored in myths that are contemporary and accessible enough to have been written today.
The giant tapestries made at the Centre have been honoured at an international level, including work being exhibited at the Iziko National Gallery,  the Grahamstown Festival, various  European cities, and in Australia. Tapestries have been purchased by corporations, public galleries, the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, and by the British Museum.
The Bethesda Arts Centre was founded in 1999 by Jeni Couzyn, a poet and psychoanalyst driven by a love for the people of the community, and a desire to help them reconnect with their cultural roots. The artists are local people of mixed descent from the coloured community, who have gradually come to recognise and own their Bushman descent. No-one is left alive who speaks the |Xam language, but we do know that the |Xam covered a large area in the Northern and Eastern Cape, that included the Sneeuberg mountains, and Nieu Bethesda. 
The quirky Centre, with its medieval tower, gothic doors, round river-stone courtyard, and large modern galleries full of stunning artwork is an astonishing find in the dusty off-beat dorp in the depths of the Karoo. But the quality of the work attracted the curator of the British Museum to visit from London to see and purchase a tapestry for their recent major exhibition: South Africa, The Art of a Nation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZzJNzXhCts 
The Bushman Heritage Museum was officially opened on 28th November 2018.  
The Museum was opened by its Founder and Director, Jeni Couzyn, together with the Centre's artists, the chairman of the board, Dr Valerie Sinason,  Toetie Douw, the traditional leader of the |Xam, and guest of honour, Professor Pippa Skotnes. 

OPEN: 7 days a week from 9 am till 5 pm. 

ENTRANCE FEE: R50 per person and half price for scholars. 

Address: Bushman Heritage Museum, Bethesda Arts Centre, Muller Street, Nieu Bethesda, 6286

Tel: 049 841 1731

Sandra Sweers (Lead Artist) sandra@bethesdatower.co.za - 082 795 8424 

Gerald Mei - gerald@bethesdatower.co.za - 083 424 4525

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