Namibia, located in the south west of Africa, is a country rich and diverse in landscape and wildlife. The original inhabitants of this land have for centuries lived freely as indigenous hunter-gatherers across the plains of southern Africa. These people, known as the Bushmen or the San People, have perfected the art of hunting, the complexity of the “click” language and the creativity of survival that so we can learn so much from.
Wearing ostrich-shell necklaces and covering only their loins in material, the Bushmen live in small communities. Their territory goes beyond Namibia spanning Botswana, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Throughout this region, they all communicate with a unique an underlying “click” sound. Inside Namibia, languages are split. The Nama people speak Khoekhoe while the Bushmen speak various languages depending on the tribe. Khoekhoe has four click sounds, however even speakers of this language are baffled by the Bushmen- who use at least seven clicks.
Thousands of years ago, the inhabitants of the world were all hunters, living off wild fruit and game meat. Today, the Bushmen still survive from these hunts. The African terrain is filled with all sorts of animals which are regarded meat- from game animals to domestic wild stock. Although the hunts are extremely important, their daily diets are based on fruits and nuts.
The Bushmen have great skill and confidence in hunting. The tribe, over the years, have learnt the difference in footprints they find. Once they have identified which animal it is, they study the footprint to determine the direction they’re heading and the wind direction. For a clean hunt, the Bushmen approach the animal from a downwind position. If the hunter approaches from an upwind position, the animal is able to pick up their scent, causing them to run away.
After a successful hunt, the Bushmen then hide the carcass and return home to get their family. The entire community will then move everything and head to the place where the hunt was made, which would then become their new home until they have eaten all of the meat. The first night of a successful hunt is a celebration. They light a bonfire and the tribe sing and dance in celebration. The next day, some of the tribe will go then go out and dig for wild fruits to supplement the meat meal.
Nhoma, a simple tented camp owned and run in partnership with the nearby Bushman village of Nhoq’ma on the border of Khaudum National Park, offers travellers a chance to get back to their primeval roots. Immersed in a hunter-gather society, guests will learn how to do simple daily tasks that the tribe do- making arrows, starting a fire, finding edible wild fruits, preparing dinners, making clothes and blankets and most importantly, how to hunt successfully. A day spent with the Bushmen will give travellers an insight into their unique and fascinating culture.
On the horizon, at the beginning of August, is the Kuru San Dance Festival- an annual celebration of Bushmen (San) culture. They gather in a small village in Botswana in D’Kar from countries in southern Africa- mainly Botswana, South Africa and Namibia. During the three day festival, the Bushmen dance, sing, play, talk and make traditional music around the fire. The festival also gives hope for the future.
The future of the Bushmen is still bright. The children of the San are interested to learn the ancient art of hunting, cooking, dancing and singing and will be taught by fathers, mothers and others in the community. Staying at places like Nhoma ensures the culture and tradition will continue on into the future and does what many travellers search out to find- a truthful and fascinating tribe of strong relationships, ancient arts and a desire to teach and share their ways of living.
What part of the Bushmen culture would you like to see?