Return to Origin facilitates co-created earth-based initiatives and projects in underserved local communities. Our work draws on indigenous knowledge systems, teachings, and practices with a focus on cultivating a connection to land and nature. Inspiring re-imagined relationships that value the natural world as teacher, and facilitating practices grounded in such knowledge is proving to be one of the most transformative and long-lasting forms of cultural and environmental education. Through intergenerational community-building initiatives, a culture of belonging can be fostered.
Our projects include community workshops, exhibitions, ceremony and storytelling. We adopt a unique approach that acknowledges the importance of inner work and personal growth alongside ecological awareness as a vehicle for truly sustainable social transformation.
A rites of passage must be marked with a ceremony witnessed by the community.
These young men and women have completed a 3 year program in returning to their origin. Through deep nature connection, rigorous inner work, reflection and creative projects they have received direct hands on lived experience essential to Indigenous Knowledge Leadership Programs.
They have tracked with the Khomani San Bushmen, walked the Umfolozi trail, studied san rock paintings with Dr Jeanette deacon, Craig Foster and Leon Lewis has worked with them as a guide to their original signature and Anna Breytenbach provided animal communication training.
They have served underserved communities around Cape Town through our Guardians for Nature program, providing day long trainings to reconnect young people to nature. Through Return to Origin's Trees for Tomorrow project they have along with the community planted nearly a 100 trees. We have witnessed unique transformation when inner and outer work are a parallel process often overlooked by most leadership programs.
We celebrate the next steps of their journey.
“The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life.” – Rabindranath Tagore
Return to Origin has come full circle and, as such, it is the best time to leave our legacy intact. Our Sustainable Together project which began in 2021 is reverberating towards where the water needs to flow to in order to bring the necessary healing. The fire of purpose continues to be ignited, the work is being rooted deep into the earth and holding the vision of Return to Origin to return us to a culture of belonging. The mountains hold our stories and the continued wisdom for the communities we have served to re-imagine our relationship to our world, and Nature in all its glory has assisted with some of the changes needed to bring us to our truth.
Since beginning our work in 2014, we have served underserved communities in Cape Town and the Eastern Cape, including Baphumelele, the Vrygrond community, and the Ekhupemleni community. We have planted several hundred trees, and reconnected intergenerational communities to each other, their lands and their purpose. We have brought healing, cultural skill-sharing, held and honoured painful, hidden histories. We have left a legacy for the communities to pick up and share with the next generation through workshops, exhibitions, days in nature, as well as artwork and drama.
The three-year Indigenous Knowledge Leadership program, and the consequent service of Angelique Michaels and Arnoldt Michaels, who is now a director of Return to Origin, is both sacred reciprocity and testament that inner and outer nature is inseparable in the unfolding of who we are, and requires a deep commitment to be here.
Thank you to all our supporters, the greater Return to Origin Community, volunteers and donators. Special thanks to Kevin Naidoo, Kassie Naidoo, Craig Foster, Jeanette Deacon, Anna Breytenbach, Leon Lewis, the Khomani Bushmen, Khoi Khonnexion, Rika Fouché, Toni Giselle Stuart, Zayaan Khan, Lincoln Meyer, Arnoldt Michaels, Angelique Michaels, Dominique Santos, Vuyisani Nobi and Siphenkosi Zintoyinto and POSH Shop. We could not have done this without you.
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We don’t say goodbye as we are not gone, and we are still very much a part of the greater whole.
“…and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” - The Beatles, The End
“I want to learn about our history. The way we used to live, so I can live and survive with that knowledge.” - Youth participant
Return to Origin in partnership with Ingcungcu Community, Kenton-on –Sea, will explore through the Sustainable Together project, community involvement in sustainability in the face of adversity in a post-Apartheid present. With a deep legacy of sons and daughters of the soil - and the origins of those who came before, and their connection to the land, farming and thriving - the community look to the past in order to heal and make sense of the future. The extraordinary grassroots work already in place and still to come will honor their origins. In the re -telling of the stories, the community knows that the intrinsic links between re-rembering the past and passing down this knowledge will not only bring healing, but also leave a legacy of hope for future generations.
“We have everything we need right here” - Zanele Mayiza, Teacher
In the past we embodied our connection to the land and its ways. Yet in living it, we may not have known its true value until, at the hand of historical processes, this connection to land and heritage has been severed; our ways of protecting and honouring them, forgotten. There is, however, the potential to re-member what has been severed; the potential to both deepen and expand our rela-tionship to the earth, our histories, our communities, and ourselves. Wholeness begins with an acknowledgement of what was lost, for it is in the loss of home, that we come to find it, and in be-coming who we are not, to recover who we really are. It is, as the old proverb echoes and reminds us, in the wound that the blessing resides. The work of recovering, rehabilitating and restoring rela-tionships to land, ourselves, each other, and communities, begins with reconciling the past. Discon-nection, and severing continues to reverberate in a post-Apartheid present where traumas to, and from, ourselves are still deeply embedded in our blood, bones and lineages.
“When the tree bears fruit everyone will benefit from it” - Tata Phixsle, Elder
Community involvement in processes of planting, harvesting and preparing food, contribute to a deepened sense of belonging, self-worth and an awareness needed to care for the earth and ourselves. Our fathers and grandfathers planted, and cared for the land. We have come to tell our stories. We have lived through the dangers and traumas of a single narrative, and by it, have witnessed many perspectives, practices and ontologies being wiped out. Wisdom and ways of relating to the world, silenced and forgotten. Yet, there are stories still to find expression in the world; stories with a light that, though dimmed, burns brighter; stories that once told, ignite the light in others. Our vision is to create a space for the holding and sharing of stories, and to foster with it, the beginnings of recon-ciliation and healing.
“When we work together, we grow together.” - Mbali Marais, Project Manager
The co-curated outputs of the Sustainable Together project with the community will include a sound documentary, and photographs, telling the stories of resilience, sustainability and remembering of self-worth through heritage in this community. This culminates in an exhibition celebrating the ex-traordinary grassroots work done to hold people together during the Covid-19 lockdown, and the shift towards a longer-term sustainable food- and care system that values the stories and well-being of those who are part of it, and the natural world that supports them, in Ekuphumleni. In addition we are calling in the creative artists, beaders, potters and musicians. These will form the backdrop for interactive sessions that demonstrate in practice what an ecologically sustainable system could look like when rooted in the cultivation of well-being, self-worth and purpose. We are spotlighting through this exhibition the community’s gifts as a collective, whilst honoring and celebrating the Ekuphumleni community's rich food heritage, memories of connection to the land and water, ex-changed between elders and youth, and a return to a sense of belonging to the land after the dis-connections of our recent history. At its core it is about giving voice to the hidden histories of this area, and leaving a legacy for future generations.