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Future Pasts Screening – Bath Spa University

The Music Returns to Kai-as - a film by the Future Pasts project

Wednesday 16 December, 2020 – Wednesday 16 December, 2020
6:00 PM – 7:45 PM


The Research Centre for Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University launches The Music Returns to Kai-as – a film by the Future Pasts project, funded by the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council.

In May 2019, the Future Pasts project, with local organisations in north-west Namibia (the Sesfontein Conservancy, the Namidaman Traditional Authority, and Save the Rhino Trust Namibia), supported the Hoanib Cultural Group from Sesfontein to return to Kai-as – a place where people once lived.

Kai-as is mentioned as an important place in peoples’ pasts in oral history research with elderly people now living on the edge of a major tourism concession. Kai-as and its strong spring of sweet water feature in peoples’ memory as where they would meet when rain season foods became available in this arid landscape. These congregations are remembered as times when people would play their |gais praise songs and arus healing dances. 'Our hearts were happy there', they said.

In the decades since, access has been restricted to places important in peoples’ pasts as land areas were claimed for mining, commercial farming, conservation and tourism.

Our film The Music Returns to Kai-as documents the first ‘Kai-as Festival’ held from 22-24 May 2019, in which Sesfontein’s Hoanib Cultural Group returned to play – once again – their |gais songs and arus healing dances there. It celebrates peoples’ resilience in the face of the extreme marginalisation and exclusion effected by processes of colonisation and apartheid.

The film, which is around 50 minutes long, will be introduced by Future Pasts Principal Investigator Sian Sullivan, Professor of Environment and Culture at Bath Spa. The screening will be followed by a Q+A with Sian and Namibia specialist film-maker Oliver Halsey, who did all the filming for The Music Returns to Kai-as.

Joining the event

The talk will be delivered online on Google Meet - join here.

Or you can join by phone on (‪GB‬)‪+44 20 3956 0199‬ using PIN: ‪986 673 417#‬.


The Future Pasts project has worked especially with people who speak Khoekhoegowab, a language that includes four click consonants written and sounding as follows:

  • | = the ‘tutting’ sound made by bringing the tongue softly down from behind front teeth (dental click) – as used in the term for praise songs: |gais;
  • || = the clucking sound familiar in urging on a horse (lateral click);
  • ! = a popping sound like mimicking the pulling of a cork from a wine bottle (palatal click);
  • ≠ = a sharp, explosive click made as the tongue is flattened and then pulled back from the palate (alveolar-palatal click).

Future Pasts researchers Sian Sullivan (Bath Spa University) and Welhemina Suro Ganuses (Save the Rhino Trust and Sesfontein resident) facilitated The Music Returns to Kai-as, with all filming by Bristol-based Namibia specialist film-maker Oliver Halsey.

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