We created a VE in which users were able to hear a traditional San story. This was set in a cave at dusk, with a San gathering sitting around a fire. The cave was modelled on those found in the Cederberg mountains of the Western Cape, South Africa. The San people once inhabited this region and it is one of the richest regions of San rock art.
Particular attention was paid to creating characters with the clothing and physique of the San people. Photographs of the San were used by an artist to create detailed sketches of the San characters. These sketches were then used as reference in the modelling of the San characters.
The story told in the environment was taken from a Bleek & Lloyd collection of San folklore. This collection contains two versions of a story about how the mantis created the eland and the moon. In San culture, Kaggen, the mantis, is considered as the magical and mischievous creator of the animals. He is a trickster. The eland is the most revered of hunted animals to the San, since it is considered to be Kaggen’s favourite. The two versions of the story were combined and slightly adapted to form the story text used in the VE.
This environment was tested for effectiveness by presenting it to school children.
It also formed part of an exhibition and the Iziko (South African National) Museum. This is particularly interesting in that one of the most famous and contentious museum exhibits of the San was the San diorama, a collection of full-body casts of San figures set in a hunter-gatherer camp. The diorama was displayed at the South African Museum in Cape Town for 42 years. The diorama was closed down since it was believed that it reflected South Africa’s past apartheid ideology which considered white people superior to so-called black and coloured groups. Clearly the nature of our VE exhibit was seen as more correct!
A further study looked at the effectiveness of preceding the San story with a contemporary Hip-Hop introduction, for this study a group of University students were used.