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Penan Naikas Bushmen




The Bushmen

Hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari Desert.

Join me in my search for the last of the traditional bushmen.

Starting with a dugout canoe trip into the Okavango Delta to meet the last river bushman...

Staying with the bushmen and learning about their way of life in the living museum of Grashoek, Namibia...

A 4x4 trip into the heart of the central Kalahari to find bushmen still living a traditional lifestyle...

Hunting with the bushmen from the settlement of Dewpost in Bushmanland, Namibia

CURRENT STATUS

Most Bushmen have now been forcibly resettled in squalid villages far away from any natural resources and employment opportunities. These villages tend to be sandy wastelands strewn with garbage. They usually house themselves in small wooden shelters roofed with reeds in the local Bantu style.

Most are no longer allowed to hunt and survive on government handouts and packet food. The few that are still allowed to hunt find game scarce as animals tend to avoid their settlements.

Mush of the former bushman hunting lands have now been turned into game farms and ranches, these farms also monopolise the water-holes making the traditional nomadic way of life virtually impossible for the bushmen.

The huge national parks of Botswana and Namibia are reserved for wildlife and tourism, while the bushmen are excluded from these area and treated as a nuisance by their own governments.

With the help of Survival International the bushmen recently won the right to return to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and continue their traditional way of life, but the Botswana government resents the ruling and makes life as difficult as possible for the bushmen who chose to return there by not allowing them boreholes, domestic animals or any modern facilities at all.

Having been thrust unwillingly into the modern world the bushmen now have little motivation to return to their traditional way of life, water and game are now so scarce in the remaining wilderness areas that the nomadic hunter-gatherer existence is virtually impossible in any case.

Bushmen villages are usually in isolated locations, accessible only by 4x4. Local Bantu villagers usually sell them consumer goods such as soft drinks, sweets, packet food and of course alcohol which is a big problem.

A handful of bushmen still live and hunt in the Central Kalahari, but none still dress in the traditional way or live an entirely traditional lifestyle. The only time you will ever see a bushman in a traditional leather loin-cloth is when they are dressing-up for the tourists.

Many bushmen have now converted to Christianity but many others still retain their traditional animist beliefs and a lively debate can sometimes be heard in the villages as to which is best. Traditonal healers who enter into trance to commune with spirits are now becoming very scarce but a few do still exist.

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Copyright 2008 Robert H Taylor