Archaeological and historical records that mention !nara (Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. ex Hook.f.) utilisation in Namibia
To Kunene from the Cape: Future Pasts literature review timelining, Compiled by Sian Sullivan for Future Pasts
Last edited 26/10/2020
© This review work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
Archaeological and historical records prior to 1990 that specifically mention !nara (Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. ex Hook.f.) utilisation in Namibia.
1. This timelined review of Archaeological and historical records prior to 1990 that specifically mention !nara (Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. ex Hook.f.) utilisation in Namibia is mapped online here.
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People, as identified in source
Mirabib inselberg, Central Namib
!Nara seed casings associated with human use found in excavation at a previously inhabited shelter here.
Various plant remains including !nara found in excavation at this shelter in an assemblage of plant and faunal remains – the nearest !nara plants are several kms away so the melons must have been transported to the site.
Last 700 years
Awasib-Gorrasis basin, south Namib
!Nara casings found in excavated sites, in association with hunting blinds indicating co-operative hunting, as well as many grinding sites for grass seed harvesting from harvester ants nests.
!Nara seed casings again found here, dating to the 1st millennia AD. A seasonal subsistence cycle for the western Namib is thought to probably have included periods spent near !nara [Acanthosicyos horridus] fields when !nara fruit were available (which are rainfall determined through groundwater availability), followed by periods of opportunistic ‘strandloping’ for coastal resources.
Wortel, close to Walvis Bay lagoon
Middens at Wortel close to Walvis Bay lagoon are dated to these centuries, composed mostly of shellfish (Donax serra) with fur seal and shorebirds also represented and indicated year round rather than seasonal occupation. Bovid remains here probably include domestic livestock ‘for the presence of coarse pasture in the hummock dunes makes it possible to maintain small herds even quite near to the bay’, comprising part of a subsistence economy that included !nara.
1340±60BP; 620-790 AD
90% of the plant material found in excavation are seed casings from !nara pips. One plant has been found nearby, but the excavation suggests the possibility of transportation of !nara from elsewhere. Ceramic vessels considered used for storage are also found at the site.
5 March 1677
The Bode anchors here and the ship’s log, quoted by Vedder, reports on seeing natives on the shore that:
[w]hen we were on the point of getting out of the boats, the said people took to their heels, leaving their possessions behind, namely a pot with some sort
Capn. C. Th. Wobma (Dutch) and crew, including ‘Hottentot’ guides
180±15BP / 1640-1950AD
90% of the plant material found in excavation are seed casings from !nara pips. One plant has been found nearby but possibility of transportation of !nara from elsewhere. Ceramic vessels considered used for storage also found at the site.
People speaking a click language
‘The food of these people is for the most part the fruit of a small thorny plant which the Botanist found to be a kind of Cucumber; this plant grows on the sandy hillocks, & we found also, between the hills, a few reeds & a kind of couch grass, these & the shrubs beforementioned comprehend the whole vegetable productions of their country, & are found but in partial spots; they also use animal food & possess herds of horned cattle, their drink is mild & brackish water, but I could not find out where they procured this last article, neither could any of us come at a sight of their cattle.’
‘… their Food was chiefly a Fruit that grew near them – of the Specie of Cucumber, much larger and of a glutinous nature; its Vine was without a leaf …’
‘Probably the earliest drawing of a !nara melon, fruit of Acanthosicyos horrida which is endemic to the Namib coast’. Source: Jill Kinahan 1990, Fig. 10 p. 43.
Thompson encounters ‘… a “village” of people speaking a click language and possessing cattle and dogs, as well as eating “the fruit of a small thorny plant which the [ship’s] Botanist found to be a kind of Cucumber” (the !nara melon, a staple food at the coast)’. Bone knives used for scooping out the flesh of the !nara are clearly shown in sketches of both men and women deriving from the observations of Thompson and Popham.
Captain Thomas Bolden Thompson, with surveyor Lieutenant Home Riggs Popham
Angra Pequena / Luderitz / ǃNamiǂNûs
‘Hottentots’ & interior =
‘The sweet seeds of a plant which grows rapidly to the height of ten or twelve feet are used by them to make a sort of cake [= presumably !nara]’
Captain Benjamin Morrell (American)
Captain Cécille of the French corvette l’Heroine finds no cattle to trade but exchanges less than a pound of tobacco for a goat and three kids in a village of around 100 people and 18-20 huts (made of tree branches pushed into the ground the tips bound to make a dome), from where people took flight on his arrival. Despite lack of cattle, Cécille ‘found the people to be healthy’, subsisting on ‘young goats, milk, !nara, ostrich eggs, game and especially fish which they speared in the shallows of the lagoon with a long pole tipped with horn’, and wearing small aprons decorated with a fringe of ‘small, smooth iron beads, and a skin cape covering the body from shoulders to thigh’ plus bangles, earings and necklaces of glass or copper beads.
Captain Cécille of the corvette l’Heroine
Ababis (Calabash Kraal) at Chuntop-Rivier (Tsondab-River)
Rooibank / |Awa!haos
Sandfontein / Walvis Bay
Gnutueip, or Black Nose on ‘Kuisip’
‘We discovered the traces of Boschmans, and set out in pursuit to catch them, to be our guides in advance. After a short time we secured a young man and a young woman, both very handsome! The man wore round his neck, attached to leather strings, a couple of pieces of ivory like paper folders, intended for eating a new fruit  called 'Naras, which we had not yet seen. On his right arm, above, the wrist, were many rings made of the hide of rhinoceroses, lions, kudus, and other wild animals, and worn as trophies; amongst them were distributed some teeth of the hyena apparently; and over his little apron, in front, was a disc of stiff leather, about three inches in diameter, and edged with iron, which looked like a miniature shield. He was armed in the usual manner, with bows, arrows, and lance. The young woman had a dangling bunch of red seed at the back of her head; she wore also the ivory scoops, and some leather rings on the left arm, also the common skin petticoat and fringe.’
Further downstream again they halt ‘at a place where huts had lately been erected, and where we got dirty water by digging for it’, and here they can hear the murmur of the sea. Looking again for moisture, ‘to our most agreeable surprise we  found the new fruit ‘naras, of which I had first heard from the Boschmans of Ababies: ‘[t]he bushes were growing on little knolls of sand, the bushes were about four or five feet in high, without leaves, and with apposite thorns on the light and dark green striped branches. The fruit has a coreaceous rind, rough with prickles, is twice the size of an orange, or fifteen or eighteen inches in circumference, and inside, it resembles a melon, as to seed and pulp. I seized a half ripe one, and sucked it eagerly for the moisture it contained; but it burned my tongue and palate exceedingly, which does not happen when this fruit is ripe; it then has a luscious sub-acid taste.’
At Rooibank / |Awa!haos, Alexander encounters two Namaqua men, carrying on their back nets with half a dozen mature naras that served them as food and water:
[t]hese two men were spies, who had been sent  to reconnoitre us from the main body. At first, they were in some trepidation, seeing the number of guns we had, but on being presented with a pipe and a piece of flesh, and being assured that they had nothing to fear from us, and that we merely wished to go to the sea to look for a ship I expected, and that I wished to purchase some provisions from them, and not to take from them their property, they became composed, and I asked them the news.
They said that it was now the commencement of the mist rains at Walvisch Bay, when the ships arrive to catch whales; that no ships had been there for a long time, but that they now expected them every day - that the Damara negroes of the plains [Herero] were at the distance of a month from them, in the upper parts of the Swakop or Bowel river, which, like the Kuisip, emptied itself into Walvisch Bay - that they had no friendly intercourse with the Damaras, of whom they were much afraid, as they were a strong people, and very angry - that once they had gone up the Swakop, on a hunting expedition [for elephant], and had got under a high rock, on the top of which  were Damaras - that instead of the Damaras shewing any desire to be friendly, they shouted, and threw down stones at the Namaquas of the Bay - that beyond the Damara negroes, and along the coast, is another nation of red men, called Nubees, or the Many People [||Ubun?, see below], and which people are friendly to strangers - that it was impossible to get to them now, though the chief of the Bay had once visited them, but he was now absent on a visit in the interior [so = travel and connections between coast and interior], and no one else at present at the Bay could undertake to shew the waters beyond the Swakop.
Besides, said the spies, “we are always afraid of meeting the Damaras on the sea-shore, to which they occasionally come on their hunting expeditions, after the elephants and other large animals in the Swakop. Not long ago the Damaras came down and attacked the people of the Bay., who at first fled; but watching the Damaras as they separated to eat the ‘naras fruit along the Kuisip, we killed a number of them, and the heaps of stones you passed the day before, are their graves: after this the Damaras have not troubled us” [=At ‘the watering place of Gnutueip, or Black Nose’ along the ‘Kuisip’ (i.e. Klipneus / ≠Nî-≠guib), see below].
The spies had heard of our approach from a Boschman who had been near the waggon when it stood in the desert of ‘Tans, and who had heard the shots fired when the gemsboks were killed. The Boschman came along the river, and told the people who were lying in it, that a large commando, or armed party [so clearly such things were not unusual], was coming against them to plunder them; and they accordingly left the river and fled among the sand hills; but the chief's wife, who was left at the bay, told her people not to be alarmed, or to run away, but to collect the cattle and sheep, and see what assistance could be given us.
“In the afternoon we packed up and went  along the river for some distance, then left it to the right, and got amongst sand downs; and some time after sundown, we packed off for the night at two or three huts at a distance from water, but surrounded with heaps of ‘naras skin. Here we saw a few new men’s faces, but no women.”
‘On the 19th of April, after allaying our hunger  and thirst with some ripe 'naras, the entire support of the Bay people for two or three moons or months - at least, so they gave me to understand - we continued our march among the sand hills, and on descending a high one, a plain covered with reeds and grass was spread before us, on which were hummocks of sand covered with bushes, and in the horizon gleamed the welcome ocean, now reached for the first time at this point from the Cape, from which it is distant 12° of latitude. We halted at a number of empty huts, near a pool of brackish water [= Sandfontein?], and pitched our tent not far from Pelican Point, Walvisch Bay, in lat. 22° 55’ south’.
‘The bay people catch and eat fish after the ‘naras is out of season, and the carcases of whales, killed by the crews of whaling ships, afford them savoury repasts in the months of May, June, July and August, or during the time the whalers are about the bay. After this they hunt, obtain roots after rain, and kin an occasional heifer or sheep, till the ‘naras season again comes round. Thus they make out the year without cultivation of any sort, not even melons or tobacco, of which last they are extravagantly fond, two or three sticks being the price of a sheep.’
A New England whaling ship bearing the Commodore Perry arrives at Walvis Bay, the captain saying he thought they ‘were shipwrecked mariners, for he had never seen or heard of white men before in this section of Africa’. Alexander finds several waterholes with brackish water in the mouth of the Kuisip but ‘no place where the oxen could have found food’. Back at his camp he finds a Captain Hoborn and company there from the American whaling ship, who he offers ‘some ‘naras fruit and brack water, which last the Americans could not swallow’. Hoborn asks if it’s possible to ‘get any green or fresh here?’, to which Alexander replies, ‘[w]e have seen none yet’.
Whilst at Walvis Bay, he writes that ‘[o]ur principal amusements at the bay were shooting wild fowl, (to keep the people from wearying), and eating ‘naras and shell fish’.
At ‘the watering place of Gnutueip, or Black Nose’ along the ‘Kuisip’ (i.e. Klipneus / ≠Nî-≠guib),
[h]ere were the graves of the Damaras [Herero], who were pursued up the river and slain by the bay people [see above), and here also we saw the last of the ‘naras fruit … [at which point he adds a footnote stating that] [s]ome plants of ‘Naras are now growing in England (March 1838) from seeds which I brought home; they are a foot high and beginning to branch, having two thorns at each articulation, and a stipule scarcely to be a leaf between them, on the axis of which is the bud, but no leaves.
Captain James Edward Alexander (British)
‘The Topnaars (Hottentots) living near Walvisch Bay are a poor tribe who subsist on fish and a rich melon which is abundant nine months of the year.’
Missionary Joseph Tindall
Kuiseb near Rooibank
A ‘Strandloper camp’ south of the Kuiseb is made reference to where ‘the Strandlopers have reaped their dried narra seeds and are making kaffir beer’.
‘At Wortel, ‘a small patch of bush or reeds in a gap between two large dunes, ‘an underground stream feeds a lake surrounded by dunes and vegetation. The stream winds through the dunes for miles, ending at Wortel. Usually, Strandlopers are living there as it is rich in narras and has plenty of game. Sandwich Harbour is not far from Wortel, and with less dunes in between. The native word for Sandwich Harbour is Narieb, which means ‘the place of the bird’', because there are islands in the lagoon, and on those islands thousands of birds nest. They have been nesting there for so long that the islands are now pure guano several feet thick.’
A letter from the Rev. Mr Scheppmann of Rooibank dated 4th January 1845 reports that “their sole food is the ‘Narap; now and then they also catch some fish, if the fruit is not enough, but the latter grows in abundance nearly throughout the year”.
A Missionary Schmidtz in Walvis Bay observes !nara being managed in ‘patches’ and that since ‘their livestock was always very small, if they had no more !Naras, they had to catch fish’:
[t]he !Narabush is a light green spiny vines without leaves, which grow wild in the sand dunes, which are spread out wide. The !Narabush is very productive. If it is in good place, it can produce several times a year. The fruit itself, when it grows, reaches the size of the head of a one-year-old child. If it is ripe, then the meaty contents - the outer bark of the fruit is also like the bush prickly - is soft and yellow and very nutritious. The months from January to May are the actual harvest months, during which time the people look good and the seeds of the fruit are similar to those of the pumpkin and remind of the almond in taste, are fat and oily and are eaten by everyone The cores, which are not eaten, were formerly traded or sold in Sandwichhaven and in Walvis Bay, which also is still happening in Walvis Bay. You are very badly paid a Ibs 3 d u [?]. usually the poor people have to take goods for them, so that the business man gets them even cheaper. They are also sold by businessmen under the name “butterpits” after the Cape. The wide !Narafeld is subdivided among the family tribes, their livestock was always very small, so that if they had no more !Naras, they had to catch fish.
A Lieut. Ruxton visits Walvis Bay and writes,
[n]ear Walvis Bay, the few natives who inhabit the Kuiseb Valley live entirely on a melon or prickly pear, which they call ‘Naros’. It is peculiar that they are found only in a very limited area of the desert, which the Nama visit during their visits to the coast. This plant is a spreading prickly bush with small blue and yellow flowers. Throughout the year, it bears fruit, which can be gathered from the same branch at every stage of growth from bud to fruit.
At Rooibank, their “principal residence” missionary Tindall found “only 50 souls, 18 head of cattle and 100 sheep and goats”, although more than 100 attended his morning service before returning “to their distant homes”,
[p]rovidence has provided for their wants wonderfully in causing the wide spreading bed of the !Khuiseb to abound with the !nara shrub … on which they thrive. When this fruit fails, they subsist principally on fish which they catch with gemsbok horn near to the water’s edge.
RMS Rev. Scheppmann
Missionary C. Schmidtz
!nara patch called Arū-tsubes
‘[t]he place is without water, but that is no deficiency for the people living right among the “Naras, because the fruit quenches their thirst, and they do not require water for washing themselves”; disapproval expressed about people disappearing into the dunes ‘if they are unable to find enough fruit within half-an-hour’s walk from their place’: “there they remain lying, even without water, filling their bellies. Most of them spend their days in scandalous indolence and laziness’
Rooibank / Scheppmansdorf
When Missionary Kolbe came to Scheppmannsdorf with missionary Bam in December 1847, he observed that the 20 schoolchildren all wore a bone hanging on the chest like a shin bone, with which the nara frucht is eaten.
Missionaries Kolbe and Bam
a few localities between the Swakop and Nourse [Kunene] rivers
A few plants are to be met with at the mouth of the Orange river, as also, according to Captain Messum, in a few localities between the Swakop and the Nourse river.
Sandfontein / ≠Khîsa-||gubus / ≠Kîsa-||gubus
‘… a prickly gourd, the ‘Nara, with long runners, covered numerous sand-hillocks; and lastly, high shifting sand dunes, on either side, completed the scene. …  it is the staple food of these Hottentots, and a very curious plant. In the first place, it seems to grow nowhere except in the Kuisip and in the immediate environs of Walfisch Bay; and in the second place, every animal eats it; not only men, cattle, antelopes, and birds, but even dogs and hyenas. It is a very useful agent towards fixing the sands; for as fresh sand blows over, and covers the plant, it continually pushes on its runners up to the air, until a huge hillock is formed, half of the plant, half of sand. I do not much like its taste; it is too rich and mawkish. …’
‘Sand Fountain, notwithstanding its disagreeable guests [sand fleas], had its advantages. Almost every little sand-hillock thereabout was covered with a ‘creeper’ which produced a kind of prickly gourd (called, by the natives, naras) of the most delicious flavour. It is about the size of an ordinary turnip (a swede), and, when ripe, has a greenish exterior, with a tinge of lemon. The interior, again, which is of a deep orange colour, presents a most cooling, refreshing, and inviting appearance. A stranger, however, must be particularly cautious not to eat of it too freely; as, otherwise, it produces a peculiar sickness, and a great soreness of the gum and lips. For three or four months in the year it constitutes the chief food of the natives.
‘The naras contains a great number of seeds, not unlike a peeled almond in appearance and taste, and being easily separated from the fleshy parts, they are carefully collected, exposed to the sun, dried, and then stored away in little skin bags. When the fruit fails, the natives have recourse to the seeds, which are equally nutritious, and perhaps even more wholesome. The naras may also be preserved by being boiled. When of a certain consistency, it is spread out into thin cakes, in which state it presents the appearance of brown moist sugar, and may be kept for almost any length of time. The cakes are, however, rather rich and luscious ...
‘The naras only grows in the bed of the Kuisep river, in the neighbourhood of the sea. A few plants are to be met with at the mouth of the Orange river, as also, according to Captain Messum, in a few localities between the Swakop and the Nourse river.
 ‘A few miles from our encampment, resided a small kraal of Hottentots, under the chief, Frederick [Khaxab], who occasionally brought us some milk and a few goats, as a supply for the larder, in exchange for which they received old soldiers’ coats (worth sixpence a-piece), handkerchiefs, hats, tobacco, and a variety of other trifling articles. But they infinitely preferred to beg, and were not the least ashamed to ask for even till’ shirt on one’s back.’
Francis Galton (British)
Charles John Andersson
Archaeological excavation dated to around these years of copper artefacts and everted pot rim sherds at a large rock shelter near the Natas Mine westwards in !Khuiseb valley below the central Namibian escarpment approximately 190 km from the coast are found in association with fragments of !nara seeds, interpreted as indicating contact ‘between this copper-working site and the Atlantic coast’.
A Captain John Spence obtains ‘permission from the local chief (probably Khaxab) to set up a fishing establishment at Sandwich harbour on behalf of the Cape- and London-based firm, de Pass & Co. [A & E de Pass] … on condition that the chief’s people were allowed to stay there with their families’ [presumably because of their !nara fields], becoming the first of several fisheries and related operations such as shark-liver-oil extraction in Sandwich and Walvis Bay.
Galton’s mapping work is ‘professionally transcribed onto a map by Livingstone, Oswell and Gassiot of London’ and published in 1852. The map clearly shows ‘Nareneen’ (perhaps the ancestors of contemporary !nara-harvesting ‘!Narenin’ and/or ||Ubun) to west of ‘Kaoko’ mountains positioned west of Outjo and Etosha, plus ‘Ghou Damup’ north-west of Erongo and ‘Soun Damup’ east of Outjo.
Detail from Galton’s map of Africa between 10 and 30 degrees South latitude, showing ‘Nareneen’ to west of ‘Kaoko’ mountains, plus ‘Ghou Damup’ north-west of Erongo and ‘Soun Damup’ east of Outjo. Source: Galton 1852, p. 141.
A fishing business is opened at Sandwich Harbor [?see 1851] and coastal people / Topnaar go there to work for ‘wages and spirits’, linked, according to with being no longer able to live on the Kuiseb !nara, although unclear as to why exactly this is [but see above].
James Chapman writes:
[a]fter travelling 15 hours without unyoking [across ‘Narriep Desert’], we reached an outspan termed Sandfontein….
This country belongs to the Beach Hottentots, (14:33) a small tribe living at Sheppmansdorp, 18 miles south of Walvisch Bay. They subsist on the narra and on fish, which they spear with a gemsbok horn or an assegai. They possess a few cattle and guns. Each family has its assigned portion of narra bush, which grows only in this locality. Only jackals, hyenas, reptiles and a few ostriches inhabit the dense dabby bushes in the bed of the Kuissip River, which falls into Walvisch Bay.
‘The missionary’, Rev. Scheppmann [?]
Sandwich Harbour & Walvis Bay
Missionary J.A. Bohm [Bam?] writes in his annual report that 10,000 pounds of nara kernels were shipped to Cape Town at about 30 pfennigs a pound from Sandwich Harbor or Walvis Bay.
‘[D]uring the late 19th century, visitors from the interior were assigned a number of bushes, “the fruit of which could be used at will, either for own consumption, for sale, or be given away” - “One can easily imagine that quarrels about bushes flare up frequently, because the vines do not stop at the established boundaries, sometimes evan a completely new bush grows right on the border”, plus “it often happens that women and girls own landed property”. Property “is passed over from parents to children, to be more precise, the youngest boy always is the principal heir, because the responsibility to take care of and maintain his parents grown old, rests with him” and “[w]hen a man dies, his widow and her daughters remain with the youngest son”. Mediation is reportedly through ‘law of the strongest’ or through ‘a tribal gathering convened for the specific purpose of trying to solve the problem according to law and equity’.
Misionary J.A. Bohm
Dissatisfaction among Topnaar reported over ‘unauthorized harvesting of !naras by a number of coloured people’:
‘that the population of the district having of late years greatly diminished. whilst the area occupied by the narraplants has increased. whole tracts of narra became vacant and the narras remained rotting away. Then some two of three families at Zandfontein (Bastaards) took to gathering these narras. This excited the ire of the Topnaars (who monopolize the narras), one of whom complained that ‘his narras’ were being stolen. I explained that I could not look upon narras as property. they grew wild on waste Crown lands and were veld kosi, so the law against theft was inoperative.’
‘This flat plain is enclosed by tall sand dunes that stretch on both sides of the bay to the beach, some of which are covered with a strong tendril plant called the naraw plant, the leaves of this peculiar plant are small and very thick. The fruit, measuring four to five inches in diameter, is very prickly, and in the immature state the thick, rather hard shell is grass-green, with the maturity it becomes yellowish, enclosing a very flesh, which does not look unremarkable to a bright egg-yolk When one eats it for the first time, one is apt to feel aversion to it, but after it has been overcome, it tastes very agreeable.in the flesh are about 200 kernels distributed. They are white, about half the size of almonds, and their taste is reminiscent of beech seeds, which are collected by the natives and sold to dealers, and about 300 cents a year still dwell on Cape Town where they are sold at prices of 40 to 50 pfennigs a pounds’.
Walvis Bay area
Palgrave observes that Topnaar make their living from harvesting !nara for food and sale of pips to traders, fishing – through harpooning with a gemsbok horn tipped spear [‘the facilities offered for the capturing of fish driven into the lagoon at the bottom of the harbour by the sharks’], and occasional paid labour – e.g. unloading cargoes at Walvis Bay [see 1890]. He writes that,
[t]he tract on which it [!nara] thrives, locally known as the ‘Nara veldt is divided into “patches” among the different families of the tribe. These holdings descend through successive generations according to generally recognized law of inheritance, all the individual members of the family having equal communal rights over the family patch.
In the Nara season. from January to May, the people leave their homes and camp out or squat among the Naras, living on the fruit and collecting the seeds for sale to the traders. These seeds -- the "Butter pits" of commerce - are the only natural products of which the District can boast …
William Coates Palgrave / John Cleverly, Magistrate of Walvis Bay
Uniab River mouth
In January L. von Estorff finds ‘deserted, circular reed huts at the Uniab River mouth’ and on return in February finds here ‘a band of 30 “Bushmen” who had just arrived from the Hoanib River. They were living off narra for the most part’ and he also mentions finding ‘a narra knife made from elephant rib at the Hoarusib River’.
L. von Estorff
Lieutenant Hugo Von François
‘the Naras, that interesting Cucurbitacee, which in large numbers grows at Sandfontein near Walvis Bay, preserves with their precious heavy fruit an existence for a few hundred Hottentots’.
Walvis Bay / lower Kuiseb area
‘The Topnaars in the Walvis Bay area get their have got their root name !Na.ranin from the melon fruit !Na.rab, the Acanthosicyos horrida welw., on which they live for a large part of the year. The period of the nara fruiting falls in the 4 first months of the year; The main harvest time is February and March.
Then the fields are left. The poorer families carry their bags into the dunes, either taking their mats home or perhaps making a shelter out of shrubbery, scarcely calling it a cottage, and come to their old abode only to fetch water, if none in the narafeld itself can be found. More affluent Hottentots stay at home, let themselves be brought by their family[?] the Nara and only come in one day for an inspection.
Each fruit contains about 250 seeds. They remain in the sieve, are spread out to dry and filled in sack. Bitten individually from the hard shell, the soft core content is as tasty as nutritious, but the main mass is crushed together with the shells in a large strong wooden cup to a brown, coarse-mass, which is shaped by hand to bite and eaten without any ingredient. " Moritz writes that ‘In Schultze very beautiful, decorated Nara knives are depicted, that are no longer found today. A wicker basket is also shown which is used as a sieve, as well as a woodern Nara masher’, none of which Moritz observed in his years in the area from 1965-1972 (see below).
L. Schultz (researcher)
Quotes Matthew 6.26 ‘... they sow not, neither do they reap; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them’ in depicting Topnaar provisioning by !nara.
German trader and farmer Ludwig Conradt
Sossusvlei / Bushman Paradise
San / Bushmen
In 1909, German Schutztruppe lieutenant Walter Trenk trekked across the southern Namib sand dunes in search of the fabled ‘Sossus-Vley’ (Sossusvlei), also known as ‘Bushman Paradise’, encountering people he identified as ‘San (Bushmen)’ eating !nara when he eventually arrived at his destination. These San ‘had attached ostrich wings to the Nara shrubs which apparently functioned as scarecrows’.
Walter Trenk, German Schutztruppe lieutenant
A chemist of the Museum of Hamburg Clemens Grimme analyses specimens of !nara sent from Deutsch-Südwestafrika by German traders and publishes his results in the journal Tropenpflanzer; stating the the plant is very important for (unidentified) indigenous people, saying little about how it is prepared (other than to offer racist comments about how ‘a Negro’s teeth’ is required to consume the dried !nara fruit leather) but later dwelling extensively ‘on the various possibilities of profiting from nara by large-scale industrial processing’.
A German customs official informs his superiours that “each of these noblemen who might possibly be prepared to work, applies for leave during the Narra season from December until April, before he has even started, and he gets it, because otherwise he would run away all the same”.
letter Mr Köhler to Govt. 6/2/1911
Anthropologist Winifred Hoernlé writes a letter to the Secretary for South West Africa, Office of the Administrator stating,
There is no doubt that the people are on bad terms with one another ... They would like a headman with authority to settle disputes, yet the dissensions among themselves as to whom they want have prevented them from putting forward their wishes. The people just brood and bicker in the recesses of their sanddunes, and are infinitely unhappy. They will never move to aid themselves, nor will they leave the bed of the Kuisib of their own accord. NO, as long as the !naras is there, the best food in Africa, as all Hottentots will tell you, the Topnaars will not move. Meantime, members of the various black races of the Protectorate are settling more and more in Walvis Bay, where they are not only ousting the Topnaars from the labour market, but where they are disputing possession of the !nara fields with them also. Altogether, hidden behind the silent line of sanddunes bounding the Bay there is a festering sore of human misery that troubles anyone who approaches it at all closely.
Walvis Bay area
A year of heavy rains in which the Kuiseb breaks its old course and floods Walvis Bay, leaving parts of the town under water for up to five months, floods wash away the bridge that crosses the Swakop mouth. Köhler suggests from his field research in 1957 that following this flood the ‘!Nara nut based food basis of the Topnaar did not recover and since then plays only a minor role’.
Damara families Xoagub and |Awaseb are recorded harvesting from !nara fields along the Kuiseb in the records of Topnaar evangelical pastor Solomon Reinhard (born about 1870).
‘a very mixed lot, Damaras, Namas, Hottentots, mixed Bushmen’ (p. 60)
‘There is one special plant that grows in the desert, the Naras. It is a strange-looking plant, rather like an untidy heap of tangled up, pale green barbed wire. On it grow small round fruit, a kind of melon. These the coloureds collect. They eat the soft pulp, making a kind of bread or biscuit from it. They dry the seeds. Some of these they roast, and they have a nutty flavour.
‘The dried naras seeds have a ready sale. Confectioners use them for flavouring and for ‘nut fillings’ and trimmings. Sacks of naras seed are brought into Walvis Bay, mostly on pack donkeys, and sold to the stores for cash to buy things like paraffin and the clothes. Nearly thirty tons of naras seed were exported from Walvis Bay in 1953.
‘It is no light undertaking to trek to Walvis Bay from these settlements up the Kuiseb River with pack donkeys. It takes three or four days each way. All the water needed for the journey has to be taken along as well.’
Frank Haythornthwaite, Anglican Rector of Walvis Bay and Northern Area
‘Suddenly round a bend in the river bed ahead there is a  cluster of roughly built huts. These belong to Berg Damaras or 'Klipkaffirs' as they are often called. They live here and some of them work at the mine. … … They have a few goats. They too use the naras where they can find it.’
Sesfontein / !Nani|aus
Encounter in the ‘small Sesfontein community a small group of coastal Bush-Hottentot folk consisting of three males and an ancient doddering female, said to be their mother, who were reported by the Topnaar Hottentot elders, their overlords, to be the last remnants of what was once a large body of Strandlopers. It was the custom of the Hottentots to allow these Strandloper retainers to go down to the coast each year when the narra fruit was ripe.’
Mr Louis Knobel from Pretoria in company of Dr PJ Schoeman ‘the Game Warden of South West Africa’
In May Köhler does field research with Topnaar and Bergdama along the Kuiseb River, writing that,
the population at the lower Kuiseb consists of Topnaar and Bergdama. This does not mean that both ethnic groups can be clearly identified as ‘Topnaar’ or ‘Bergdama’. Intermarriage and influences from other ethnic groups have determined the image of the external appearance … [and] within the population at the lower Kuiseb due to long inter-ethnic relations, there is a sense of togetherness.
He visits 50 Topnaar and 14 Bergdama households with 153 and 43 individuals respectively, finding that many younger people are either at Walvis Bay or ≠Gorob for work. Field survey by Köhler indicates that although numbers of people along the Kuiseb were low, ‘the number of women did not exceed that of men’ (as in 1891 Walvis Bay census) although the phenomenon of a high incidence of ‘relatives’ and ‘visitors’ was observed, interpreted ‘closely related to the structure of the clan’ more broadly (i.e. is ‘found everywhere’). In years of poor pasture and low !nara harvest, the government provides rations to the needy. Topnaar concentrations were at Rooibank and Swartbank and many were born there; some moved to the Kuiseb from Walvis Bay, Sesfontein and Bethany. Of the Bergdama, some were,
born at Kuiseb, especially in ≠Natab and Breuergu-!goab. Both places seem to be the most important centers from which members of the living generation spread’, others ‘came from places outside the Kuiseb valley, especially Otjimbingue, Okombahe and even the south of the country, and also Usakos and Walvis Bay. In some cases, the Bergdama claimed that their parents had fled the Otjimbingue Herero War and settled at the Kuiseb. The Kuisebtal was therefore sometimes an area that offered refuge in the tribal wars or in the clashes between the Germans and the Herero refugees.
In 1957, Owambo contract workers were employed at Rooibank water installation which had (again) become an important centre; otherwise ‘[t]he population of the lower Kuiseb lives mainly from a. the harvest of the Nara-nut, b. the keeping of cattle and goats c. the manufacture and sale of charcoal and d. wage labor’. By this year [?] the place The place |Nomabeb, after the wild fig |nomas, has become known by the Namib Desert Research Station under the name ‘Gobabeb’.
Dispute follows the Odendaal Plan which suggests moving the ≠Aonin from their traditional lands and !nara fields to the proposed Namaland (Gibeon) or Damaraland communal areas. Resistance leads to the shelving of these plans on the following grounds: the ≠Aonin have been present in the vicinity of the !Kuiseb for at least several centuries; their culture and livelihoods are intimately linked with the !nara and marine resources of the coast; and legal treaties entitling the ≠Aonin to the continued use of the resources exist dating to annexation by the British in 1884.
Walter Moritz works as a missionary in Walvisbaai and Swakopmund and ‘a lot of information from the Topnaar on Kuiseb’, while building a church with them in Rooibank / Scheppmannsdorf. One of his informants is ‘the old evangelist Jakobus Stevenson (Argyll)’ [see 1890s]. In 1970 one of the main processors of !nara was a Damara man called Ruben Xoagub who Moritz meets in February in Walfischbucht where ‘he had just delivered over a ton of Nara kernels and wanted to go back to the Narafeld for about a month before he would again deliver Nara kernels to Walvis Bay’.
‘an open gas cylinder was taken, that is, a small iron container, in which the nara kernels were crushed with an iron rod’.
Missionary Walter Moritz
‘Ethno-historical’ field research by Budack observes ≠Aonin to be differentiated into two ‘sections’: the !Khuisenin, i.e. !Khuiseb people, living upriver with livestock and coming to the coast seasonally to harvest !nara, and the Hurínin, i.e. sea people, living near the coast without livestock, the name !Naranin referring to a reliance on !nara and having derogatory connotations by referring to the poverty indicated by dependence on this food rather than on livestock.
In Sesfontein it was recorded that the flesh of fruits eaten after having been collected into a bucket, churned, thrown to dry on the ground for approx. 3 days, after which the dried ‘cake’ (or ^goa-garibe.b) is rolled up and is ready to eat. This product is described in Sesfontein as ‘it’s Topnaar cattle’, i.e. it is regarded highly as a substitute for cattle milk.
Possibly Tjimba lineage members at Sechomib wet season camp, a few kms from Ochams spring, around 70kms N-W of Purros, ‘take advantage of good local pasture for their goats and a large crop of ripe !nara (Acanthosicyos horirida [sic]) after rain in December 1984. They spent about three months there and would re-use the camp if rain permitted’.
!Khuiseb & Sesfontein
The Ethnobotany of the Topnaar is published. Its front cover shows ‘Bethuel Xoagub showing the special relationship Topnaar people have with the !nara melon’, although it is interesting to observe that ‘Xoagub’ is in fact a Dama / ≠Nūkhoen name (as noted by Walter Moritz, see 1965-1972 above).
Following independence, the MET begins to address some of the problems existing in terms of the relationship between park rules and management and the ≠Aonin people along the !Khuiseb, associated with exclusion from any decisions relating to park management, marginalisation in terms of development investment, and being repeatedly encouraged to leave the !Khuiseb. The aim was to promote a Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) approach in the lower !Khuiseb. The first stage of this process was the implementation of a ‘socio-ecological survey’ conducted in 1992, with the aim of producing ‘management proposals ... which integrates the needs and aspirations of the Topnaar people with the needs and objectives of conservation within the Namib-Naukluft Park’. Requests made by the ≠Aonin during this survey included: the removal of at least some problem animals (jackal and hyaena); the distribution of benefits from conserving wildlife to local people through receiving meat from culled wildlife and a percentage of Park visitor’s fees, and through the involvement of ≠Aonin people as tourism guides; and the recognition of land rights allowing development within the ≠Aonin settlements in the Park, and preventing detrimental effects from external sources on the !nara fields.
Current Topnaar headman (the late Gaob Kooitjie) is quoted as saying that although the Nama are known for !nara harvesting ‘the Topnaar or hurinin, the “people of the sea”, were originally not !nara harvesters’ and ‘![n]ara harvesting was never a major social economic activity until the fishing rights were taken away from the Topnaar by the settlers’.
The importance of high density areas of !nara plants for ‘Topnaar livelihoods’ continues to be recognised, for example, through designation of such sites as ‘red flag areas of high biodiversity’ in the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) conducted a few years ago for managing the so-called ‘uranium rush’ in the Central Namib.
 I.e. named observers in historical texts.
 Sandelowsky et al. 1979; Sandelowsky 1974.
 Sievers 1984, pp. 36-37, and references therein.
 John Kinahan and Jill Kinahan 2006.
 Sandelowsky 1977, p. 275.
 John Kinahan 2001, p. 88 and references therein.
 John Kinahan and Jill Kinahan 2003, pp. 4, 6, 7, 9.
 Also Vigne 1994, p. 4.
 Bode ship’s log quoted in Vedder 2016, pp. 12-14.
This encounter is later summarized thus:
‘where the captain and crew were involved in an unpleasant skirmish with local Nama’ (du Pisani 1986, p. 13); as with the Grundel, ‘[w]hile remaining prudently armed, the sailors tried to make clear their friendly intentions and their desire to trade iron bangles and beads for cattle. The nomads reacted with fear and suspicion, and skirmishes broke out. The reports discouraged further exploration or attempts to trade’ (Jill Kinahan 2000, p. 15).
Also reported in Budack 1983, p. 3.
 John Kinahan and Jill Kinahan 2003, pp. 4, 6, 7, 9.
 Thompson narrative in Jill Kinahan 1990, pp. 42-44; The livestock would have been kept at outlying stockposts, Jill Kinahan 1990, f44 p. 50 after John Kinahan 1989, p. 154.
 Popham narrative in Jill Kinahan 1990, p. 58.
 Wallace 2011, p. 56, and references therein.
 Jill Kinahan 1990, Fig. 8 p. 42; John Kinahan 2001, Plate 3; Jill Kinahan 2017, Fig. 2 p. 301; Jill Kinahan 1990, fig. 7 p. 41.
 Morrell 2014, p. 315.
 Jill Kinahan 2000, p. 17
 Alexander 2006, pp. 17-19; also in Moritz 1992, pp. 6-7.
 Alexander 2006, vol. 2 p. 66.
 Alexander 2006(1838), vol.2 pp. 67-68. Also see John Kinahan 2011, pp. 33-35. Moritz 1992, pp. 6-7, 33 after Alexander 1838, vol. 2 pp. 18, 72.
 Alexander 2006, vol. 2 p. 72, in Moritz 1992, p. 7.
 Vigne 1994, p. 5.
 Cf. Alexander 2006(1838) vol. 2, p. 74 in Budack 1983, p. 5.
 Alexander 2006, vol. 2 pp. 72-74, also in Moritz 1992, p. 7.
 Alexander 2006, vol. 2 pp. 76-77.
Alexander 2006, vol. 2 p. 84.
 Alexander 2006, vol. 2 pp. 88-89.
 Alexander 2006, vol. 2 p. 103.
 Alexander 2006, vol. 2 p. 110; also in Moritz 1992, p. 7.
 Tindall 1959, p. 3.
 Bell 1977, pp. 11-12.
 Bell 1977, p. 26.
 Quoted in Budack 1983, p. 3 after Moritz 1916, p. 238.
 Quoted in Moritz 1992, p. 8.
 Moritz 1992, p. 8.
 Moritz 1992, p. 7 quoting Rautenberg 1967 p. 31 f..
 In Vigne 1994, p. 2.
 Quoted in Moritz 1916, pp. 241, 243 in Budack 1983, p. 6.
 Mossolow, 1970, p. 40, in Moritz 1992, p. 33.
 Andersson 1856, p. 22 in Kohler 1969, p. 110; also Andersson 1861, p. 37-38.
 Galton 1890, pp. 10-11, 14; Gillham 2001, p. 68.
 Also Andersson 1861, p. 37-38.
 Andersson 1856, pp. 21-23 in Kohler 1969, p. 110; also in German in Moritz 1992, p. 8.
 Kinahan and Vogel 1982, p. 45
 Jill Kinahan and John Kinahan 2009, p. 49 – the company becomes De Pass, Spence & Co., then Daniel De Pass & Co., after Spence becomes insolvent.
 Jill Kinahan 2000, p. 18.
 Köhler 1969, p. 102.
 Chapman 1971, p. 175.
 Quoted in Budack 1983, p. 6
 Moritz 1992, p. 29.
 Koch 1883, pp. 51-52 in Budack 1983, pp. 4, 5.
 Rolland 1888, p. 26 quoted in Budack 1983, p. 5.
 Viehe 1890 in Moritz 1992, pp. 9, 30.
 Palgrave memo of 1891, quoted in Köhler 1969, p. 114.
 Dentlinger 1977, p. 16 after Köhler 1969, pp. 113-114.
 Palgrave memo of 1891, quoted in Köhler 1969, p. 113.
Observation attributed to aletter to Colonial Secretary(20th April 1891) from John Cleverly in Budack 1983, p. 4.
 Jacobson and Noli 1987, p. 174 and references therein.
 Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974, p. 172.
 Von François 1896, p. 9 quoted in Budack 1983, p. 5.
 Dinter 1918, p. 84 in Moritz 1992, p. 12.
 Schultze 1907, pp. 197-200 quoted in Moritz 1992, pp. 9-11.
 D.S.W.A. Zeitung 13/9/1905 referred to in Budack 1983, pp. 3, 5.
 Gondwana Collection Namibia 2011: 30-31. Nb. Alexander quoted in Shaw (1841, p. 30) observes Bushmen disguising themselves as ostriches so as to get near to the ‘kaop’[?] antelope for hunting.
 Grimme 1910, pp. 297-298 and 1911, p. 226, summarised and translated in Kranz 2016, p. 73.
 Quoted in Budack 1983, p. 6.
 Carstens 1985, p. vii.
 Jill Kinahan 2017, p. 309 quoting Carstens et al. 1987, p. 179, citing Hoernlé 1923.
 Haythornthwaite 1956, p. 21, 75. Haythornthwaite (1956, p. 76)says that [a]s the water came down it was plain how the river gets its name, not as some think from ‘Swart kop’, black head, but it refers to the filth that comes down ahead of the first water, derived, I think, from a Herero word’, but in fact Tsoaxau is a Damara / ≠Nūkhoen name.
 Köhler 1969, p. **.
 Moritz 1992, p. 17.
 Haythornthwaite 1956, p. 61.
 Haythornthwaite 1956, p. 101.
 Dart 1955, p. 175.
 Köhler 1969, p. 116.
 Köhler 1969, p. 116.
 Köhler 1969, p. 115.
 Köhler 1969, p. 116.
 Köhler 1969, p. 117.
 Köhler 1969, p. 117.
 Köhler 1969, p. 118.
 Köhler 1969, p. 120.
 Odendaal Report 1964**; Budack 1977, p. 4; Jill Kinahan 2017, p. 298.
 Moritz 1991, p. 3.
 Moritz 1992, p. 15.
 Moritz 1992, p. 19.
 Moritz 1992, pp. 11, 34.
 Budack 1977, pp. 12-38; also Jill Kinahan 2000, p. 3.
 Dentlinger 1977, p. 28, also Du Pisani 1983, p. 5.
 Jacobsohn 1995, p. 118, also referred to in Smith and Jacobson 1995, p. 11.
 Van den Eynden et al. 1992.
 cf. Jill Kinahan 1992, p. 310.
 Jones 1992, pp. 1-5.
 Mapaure 2008, pp. 170-171.
 SEIA 2010-11, pp. 7.80; also Risk-Based Solutions, Foresight Group Namibia (Pty) Ltd 2011, p. 167.