Lydia “Lys” Kruiper

Lydia “Lys” Kruiper is a well-respected leader, Healer, and Elder of the Khomani San community. She is the daughter of the late San Traditional leader, Dawid Kruiper. Her soft-spoken demeanor and small stature run contradictory to the power she manifests. Like the blanket of stars that fill the sky at night over the dunes of the Kalahari Desert, Lys shines brightly everywhere she goes.

She is a caretaker for many children in the community who are living in high-risk situations such as domestic abuse. Like most Bushmen families, Lys and her husband Isak live very simply.  They share a 2-room home on land with no running water or electricity yet invite any child in need to find shelter there.

The San Bushmen, like many Indigenous communities around the world, were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands. They live with no water, and prohibited from living in their traditional ways as their ancestors had for tens of thousands of years before them. The government allowed a liquor store to open in the middle of the community. This has been disastrous for the San. Sadly, liquor often sells for less than water. Additionally, both of Lys’ brothers were murdered, and countless friends and family members have been lost due to disease, domestic violence, alcoholism and general despair. This is further discouraging because the San are arguably our oldest living ancestors. We carry their DNA in ours. Their land is diminishing and for the Bushmen, the land holds the bones of their ancestors, their songs, their ceremonies, the language (which is not written), and their very history.

Even with all of these challenges, Lys never lost hope. Rather, the work that Lys is doing with her community promotes and creates resilience, renewal and remembering. She is especially focused on training the community youth, even traveling to neighboring Namibia to work with a still largely intact Bushmen community to learn the ancient ancestral ceremonies. These youth are staying sober and are engaged. The youth come to her and say, “We want to remember who we are. We want to learn the ancestral trance dances to help us remember.” In the Kalahari, Lys is very much a woman working alone, holding the hope and the vision for the revival of her people. She has a deep understanding that as her people are empowered and healed, so will the rest of humanity.

Giving this award to Lys gives acknowledgement to the sheer power, grace and persistence of a woman who has worked alone on this journey and the financial assistance provided in conjunction with the Wisdom Treasure Award would also mean a great deal to her. However, maybe even more important, it would serve as appreciation and recognition of everything that Lys has and is shouldering and  empowers her to carry on with this incredibly important work for her family, community and the world.

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