Nov 162008

After crossing into Botswana, we made our way to Ghanzi, where we camped in a gorgeous dustbowl. This place seriously looked like a luxury resort, except that only us and a group of Afrikaaner tourists were there, and we were all camping. We did get in a good swim.

San/Bushmen dance & walk
That night, we had a group of San (Bushmen), the original inhabitants of southern Africa, come to show us some traditional dancing, which was interesting, save the couple of Afrikaaners who crashed the show (we paid for it & they didn’t) and then insisted on talking through the whole thing, even after being asked– very politely– to keep it down. The first I didn’t mind, but the second was just rude.

San dancing…

The women provide the rhythm and music, and sometimes dance…

In the morning, the group returned at yet another spectactular sunrise to take us on a walk to show us a bit about their culture & what they use in this area. It was interesting & fascinating– they showed us, among other things, some of the ways that they know individuals’ footprints in sand, herbs used in healing, gatherer food, animal spoor, and a Wildebeest skeleton.

Earlier, we visited a Himba village, and we were struck by how well they kept to their traditional ways, even to the point of making me rather uncomfortable. The village was an orphanage, where Himba children could be raised in their traditional ways, which are significantly different from the outside world. Some (about 20%) of the children go to Western schools as well. I personally felt like I was trespassing in the peoples’ homes, however, and failing to be a fly on the wall. It’s a way for the Himba to get cash, required in this modern world, but it seems like they’re trying to fuse the irresistable force of westernisation and globalisation with the immovable tradition of their own past. It’s a hard thing to see.

With the San, it’s even worse. These were once feared tribes of hunter-gatherers who ranged from present-day Angola down through all of Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. They were fierce hunters and feared warriors, but when the Dutch landed at Cape Town, they just left the area.

These people have been relocated to small areas, often different areas than they know, with different plants, animals, hunting requirements, and climate. Often, the relocated areas are not very good for hunting or gathering. The traditional ways of the San are more readily crumbling in the face of globalisation: There were only two members of the group under about 30, one the translator, and the other was an infant.

There were, however, still smiles, joy, and laughter in the face of all of this. Something that I see nearly everywhere I go in Africa, and perhaps a lesson to us all.

Yet another stunning sunrise…

This is Not Unix.

San women, traditional

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