What does Matetsi Mean?

The word Matetsi is the local name of a blue-green algae that grows in water supplies that are the most favourable for wildlife to drink, defining it as one of Mother Nature’s life-giving sources.

Where does the name Matetsi originate from?

The story goes that a very long time ago the Nambian tribe, descendants of the ChiKaranga people, were settled peacefully south of a river when the Ndebele tribe moved into their area. The Ndebele were known for being great warriors and they pursued the Nambians north across the river. As the Nambians fled, they were slipping on the rocks in the river, and they shouted “Matedgi” (their word for the blue-green algae that cover the rocks). The Nambian people settled north of the river, where their families are still found to this day. The river became known as the “Matedgi” river, and over the years the name transformed to Matetsi. There is a village named for this river, as well as a huge safari area, which is divided into 7 sections. The 7th section is known as Matetsi Private Game Reserve. The area has always kept the name Matetsi, primarily for the history linked to it, though it’s interpretive meaning as a life-giving source is so fitting for a wilderness conservation area, where the primary focus is to ensure that life thrives.

What is significant about blue-green algae?

Quite simply, blue-green algae are thought to be the first life on Earth, and the source of oxygen that has made our planet habitable. Blue-green algae, such as Matetsi – that often go overlooked by many, created the ecosystems that make up our world, and make life on earth a reality.

Where can I read more about blue-green algae?

Visiting the Alta Museum in northern Norway in summer, you will likely see the rock art paintings near the shore from the indigenous people of the area, the Sami. In winter, the rocks are covered in snow and so you’ll have more time to explore the exhibits within the (heated) museum. If you’re rather inquisitive (as the author is), you’ll investigate every nook and cranny of the museum, and find one small cabinet standing alone on the basement level. It seems significant in its isolation. Inside sits a “rock” with a Norwegian description, alongside some unidentifiable images, fortunately (for the author) some kind soul has taken the time to translate the description into English.

It reads (verbatim):

“The first life on Earth.

The Earth was formed about 4.6 billion years ago. The earliest known forms of life on the planet are blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). Fossils from these organisms are called stromatolites. The oldest fossils found on Earth are ca. 3,5 billion years old and the oldest in Europe ca. 2 billion years old (2,000,000,000) – and are located among other places at Lille Raipasfjell in Alta!

… Without the tiny one-celled algae, this planet would not have been inhabitable(sic) for those of us who need oxygen to stay alive. In the first period of time after the Earth was formed, the atmosphere consisted of poisonous gases like carbon dioxide and hydrogen, and blue-green algae was the only life-form that could exist. There was no free oxygen. The algae and the stromalites gave the Earth an atmosphere necessary for life-forms to evolve. Through photosynthesis carbon dioxide and hydrogen were removed, and oxygen was added to the atmosphere. About 1.3 billion years ago, the atmosphere was fit for other life forms to evolve. Though it was not until ca. 550 million years ago (0.55 billion) that the first animals with hard body parts, such as bones and shells, appeared. It was only ca. 150 000 years ago the first modern human beings entered the scene.”


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