Wandering and Wondering

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The gods must be crazy


In the classic film “The gods must be crazy”, a westerner drops a coke bottle from an airplane while flying over Africa, and a bushman picks it up and looks at it in wonder, having never seen one before in his life. The bushmen we have visited so far on the trip haven’t been quite so isolated from the modern world as this (is there anywhere in the world where you can't buy coke these days?), but they still manage to live a fairly traditional way of life.

The first tribe we visited was the Himba tribe in Namibia. The village in which they live is situated on privately owned land. The owner lived with the tribe for several years and now allows tourists to come and visit. She does the best she can to try and ensure that their traditional lifestyle is maintained. There were about 10 women living in the village, all married to a single man (who wasn’t present when we visited). Along with the women, there were about 15-20 children, and they definitely were not camera shy, putting their face right up to the camera to allow me to get some great photos:


We even joined them in playing a few games. In the game in the following photo, everyone sits in a circle and one person runs around the outside and drops a rag behind another person, who picks it up and takes over. A simple game, but the kids obviously enjoyed it, and so did we.


The next bushmen we visited were the Ju-Hoansi at Grashoek. We first met the kids from the village as they ran behind the truck while we were driving in:


When we pulled to a stop, a large group had gathered:


Some of the kids had made toy cars from old cans and bits of wire, and they would race them with their friends:


We got out the sporting equipment from the truck and played some football, rugby and cricket with them:


As with the Himba tribe, they were not camera shy, and fought over getting a photo taken:


In the afternoon, we were taken on a bush walk, and shown how to light fire, dig for roots and hunt animals.


In the evening the children gathered around the campfire and we shared some food and drinks, sang a few songs, and let them play with our hair (they were fascinated at how soft it was compared to theirs).


As much as they try to live a traditional lifestyle, they still need a bit of money for various things, and they make this by selling jewellery and conducting tours such as ours. I really hope that they manage to maintain their culture and traditions as much as possible, because they are truly wonderful people.


As well as meeting a couple of bushman tribes, I also had the opportunity to do a tour of a village near our Ngepi campsite. Our guide actually lived in the village, so was well suited to answering all of our questions. He showed us how they make their huts, using tree branches for the frames, thatching for the roof, and a kind of cement made from termite mounds for the walls:


Even beer cans and bottles are sometimes used as building materials:


Their diet consists mainly of fish and a porridge made from millet grain. The grain is skillfully separated from the husks using a basket and then crushed to make flour:


As well as porridge, they also make beer from the millet. Women carry water from the river on their heads:


One of the more interesting facts we learned from the villagers is that elephant dung mixed with water and fed to chickens helps to prevent the chickens from getting sick. Another use for elephant dung that we later learned while in the Okavango delta is that it can be burned to repel mosquitos. Useful stuff considering that we have now entered a malaria risk area.


Rachel said...

Darren, these portraits of the children bring a tear to my eye. It seems to me that you've captured them just beautifully, the smiles, the happiness...

Thanks for sharing and for going to the trouble to upload and blog from the road.

Ophira said...

Interesting to know.