South African National Parks (SANParks) initiated SA National Parks Week in 2006. From the 9th to the 13th of September 2013, the focus was on granting free access for South Africans into almost all of the South African National Parks.
The Arid region which includes Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Augrabies Falls National Park, Namaqua National Park, |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and the Mokala National Park has for the last three years held a flagship regional event, the Arid Cultural Event in partnership with the Department of Economic Development and Tourism of the Northern Cape Province (DEDAT), at one of the parks to commemorate the week with its communities. This year the event was celebrated at the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park with the focus on cultural heritage.
SANParks vision of “Connecting to Society” is the backbone behind this event as this provides an opportunity for the various arid region cultures to showcase their uniqueness but also emphasises their similarities. Via this channel the San people (Bushmen as they prefer) from the Kalahari, the Tswana people from the Mokala community and the Nama people from the Augrabies, Namaqua and Richtersveld communities can convey a message to the public and commemorate their heritage through various cultural activities like traditional singing and dancing, storytelling and amongst others showcasing their traditional products. The groups that participated in this year’s event are the Kuboes Nama Youth Choir, The Phatsimang Cultural Group, the Namaqua Garies Trappers, The Namataradi Project, the Kalahari Rooi Duin Manne and the Sendlingsdrift Youth Choir.
The aim of this event is to celebrate the South African Democracy; provide free access to the park; to educate the public on the National Symbols and Orders and their importance with regard to nation building; to popularize the uniqueness of the region’s cultural heritage in a manner to develop a 'sense of ownership'; to reinstall a spirit of respect and understanding for the various forms of indigenous cultural heritage; to build strategic partnerships; to utilize the Heritage Month and SA National Parks Week Celebrations to intensify efforts to create a new moral and national consciousness; to preserve and respect the cultural heritage of the local park communities; to enhance cultural tourism in the region; to develop mutually beneficial programmes between SANParks and local community and to create awareness of the various cultures as living entities.
Previously this event was held at Namaqua, Augrabies and Mokala National Park. The communities around |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and the public attended this event and joined in the festivities as SANParks “Connects to Society”.
This year SANParks partnered various local stakeholders, like the Open Africa Richtersveld Tourism Route, The Richtersveld Community Property Association, Richtersveld Mining Company (Alexkor), The Department of Economic Development and Tourism, Transhex Mining Company, Richtersveld Municipality, Ai-Ais Hot Springs Game Park and Compass Catering Company. The mining Companies are all very active in the community, and often contribute to events like the upcoming cultural event.
The Open Africa Richtersveld Tourism Route, is a Community based Tourism Forum, and part of the larger Open Africa “family”. Open Africa is developing Tourism Routes throughout Africa, focusing on rural parts, with the aim of creating job opportunities in the Tourism Industry. The Open Africa Richtersveld Route Forum has been working closely with the Department of Economic Development and Tourism for a few years, with the same goal, to develop this unique area, to a tourism destination of choice.