Largely hunter-gatherers, their territory spans several nations and they have called the region home for tens of thousands of years.
He moved gracefully over the inhospitable land with a confidence that comes from centuries of accumulated knowledge. We followed at a distance as he scanned the horizon, silently tracking something in the immeasurable distance.
The San Bushmen are one of the oldest populations on Earth and one of the most thoroughly studied groups of indigenous people in the history of anthropology. Today, there are approximately 85, toSan living in six southern African countries, where they have been largely marginalized from the modern world.
Barefoot and standing no more than five feet tall, the Old Man was remarkably fit. His hair was mostly grey and his leathery skin exhibited scratches and scars acquired through years of battle with the desert.
As we walked, he identified several of the nearly species of edible plants, nuts, fruits, and tubers that were the staple foods of his ancestors. As we stopped for a short break from the mid-day sun and warm Kalahari wind, it was becoming apparent that our bush experience would be more about tracking than actually hunting.
While their ancestors had been traveling through the veld hunting and gathering food for tens of thousands of years, prior to Namibian independence from South African rule inthe San had few rights to land, resources, or wildlife. As the young nation grew out of the ashes of nearly 70 years of oppression under apartheid, the Namibian government demonstrated a strong commitment to further the rights of historically disadvantaged indigenous people.
They initiated programs to deliver educational support, water development, food, and pensions to the elderly. After years of conversation and debate, legislation for a new natural resource management structure known as a Conservancy was passed in It allowed for local communities to form conservancies to both manage and benefit from wildlife and tourism on multi-use communal land.
In June ofthe Nyae Nyae region became the first conservancy in Namibia, and for the first time a small group of former hunter-gatherers had the right to make decisions about the use of their ancestral lands. It was a forward thinking San named!
Amace later told me. Each experience has an associated price. In addition to hunting, our group also selected traditional dancing and storytelling.
After a short rest back at our campsite, we made our way through the bush towards the distant sound of song. Nearly half the village was waiting in their traditional dress or more accurately mostly undressed at the replica village of their ancestors.
I mounted my camera on a tripod as the sun began to set. Following a short introduction by! The Old Man and the village healer sat quietly by a small campfire. Several women nursed infants as they clapped to the desultory ballet. The scene had all the romantic and exotic flavour of a first contact with an ancient lost tribe.
It was an intoxicating display. I also understood that without proper context my images could easily perpetuate the myth that the descendants of some of the earliest humans to inhabitant Southern Africa were still living idyllic, isolated lives untouched by history.
Their authenticity is raw and comes from a renewed pride in their culture of antiquity. They are naked by choice. The have chosen to perform for tourists and in so doing are changing the perception of their people from a primitive curiosity to the protectors of ancient wisdom.
The young children I photographed had no understanding that they were a part of a tourist performance; they were simply dancing with their brothers and sisters like their tribe had for generations.
The children were almost always hungry. They say that their old ways give meaning to their lives and connect them through generations.
The Museum is a workplace and entrepreneurial business that they own and control. The profits are shared among the community.
The oral history and traditions of the San are being recorded by elders in their native tongue and written down for future generations. It is easy to embrace the romantic notion that indigenous cultures should be preserved and tribal people, even those on the edge of existence, should be allowed to live in peace like their ancestors have for centuries.
But for communities who live hard lives in inhospitable places, more abundant food, clean drinking water, better medicines, less infant mortality, education, and a longer life expectancy should not be interpreted as unfortunate effects of modernity on a romanticized indigenous culture.Oct 08, · Bushmen of Ghanzi, Kalahari Desert, Botswana doing very day routines.
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(May ) The Kalahari Desert (shown in maroon) & Kalahari Basin (orange). Jun 29, · Two days with the Bushmen in the Kalahari. The nights dancing & singing went on for over seven hours into the early hours of the morning.
Today, the Bushmen are mainly confined in the barren inhospitable environment of the desert of Kalahari (Namibia, Botswana, and Angola) and adjacent sub-tropical grasslands of South-West Africa. The!Kung Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert The!Kung Bushmen of Botswana inhabit the semi-arid northwest region of the Kalahari Desert.
Their average annual rainfall is poor, only six to nine inches a . The Kalahari Desert (shown in maroon) & Kalahari Basin (orange) Kalahari in Namibia The Kalahari Desert is a large arid to semi-arid sandy area in southern Kgalagadi Africa extending , km² (, sq. mi.), covering much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa.