The Kalahari Bushmen

A dying culture

The San people are also known as the Bushmen

Eighteen hours is barely enough time, to sum up, a culture that has been lost to, discrimination, bureaucracy, and modernization. Africa’s earliest inhabitants the Kalahari Bushmen were driven from their land and denied their natural heritage.

I am fortunate to have shared this brief time with these extraordinary people who have an inborn wisdom of the earth they inhabit. They are a small people and the harsh environment has etched its’ geography in the harrowed lines of their faces.

The bushmen have traditionally inhabited the Kalahari Desert regions of Southern Africa, including parts of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Angola. The San people have a rich cultural heritage and are known for their hunting and gathering skills, as well as their unique language and spiritual beliefs. Despite facing many challenges and pressures from modernization, the San people continue to maintain their traditional way of life and cultural practices.

For generations their land sustained them. Sadly their livelihood today comes from the tourists who pay to watch them perform their tribal stories and show them how they foraged their land.

The Bushman people have suffered great injustice, losing the rights to live, forage and hunt off land where they have lived for generations.

Women were abused by white colonialists, their breasts a sort after pouch to hold the tobacco. Only a few hundred true Kalahari Bushmen have survived, their modern lives now plagued with alcoholism, TB, and HIV AIDS.

Dressed for a hunt. A thin chammy mask disguise blends into the dry yellow bush veld.

It was July, I was dressed in a winter jacket. We were surprised to be met by these small people wearing very little in these harsh conditions. One generation would never be enough to pass on their knowledge of roots, leaves, herbal medicines, and how to forage and hunt.

Fire, is the heart of survival. She blows the embers that have been ignited using a bow drill with precision.

She stood there like mother nature herself. She demanded respect, generations of wisdom exhaled.

I loved this cross-culture photo. Water is the life blood of the Kalahari and the over used iconic heart of modern culture.

I felt humbled by this tribe’s natural knowledge. I would not have the expertise to survive in this habitat, how can we expect this tribe to survive in ours?

The stories, danced out against the fire light. The Kalahari Bushman filled the night with their stories translated by dance and clicking sounds.

It was a privilege to have the opportunity to photograph this incredible tribe. I hope I have to opportunity to return one day or hear that their land has been returned to them.

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