San ‘Fran’ Bushman

A while ago Steph and I visited Philadelphia for a weekend and happen upon an exhibition about the origins of man and race. In this exhibition it showed evidence and gave argument to the origins of man (Homo Erectus) coming out from Africa and migrating across the rest of the continents. One of the tribes that it is argued are the link back to these origins of man are the Bushmen of Africa and in particular the San Bushmen.

The San Bushman (without getting into any arguments) where the original tribes that inhabited areas of Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa before the colonisation of Black Africans from the north and White colonialist’s from Europe. As we have traveled through these three countries we have visited many places of interest concerning the San Bushman.

A couple of facts about the bushman are that they are/were hunters and used paintings and etchings in the areas surrounding their hunting areas to detail what animals could be hunted and what resources were available to other Bushman who came into the area. Another key fact is that when they hunted they would eat the whole animal until no meat remained, this may be done of several sittings but it was done and the bottom’s were evolved to swell with the intake of the meat and the fat on the bum was there to provide in times when no food was available. One final key fact is that they speak in clicks, 4 clicks are involved with their language, if you have seen South Park with Starving Marvin, that’s pretty much how it sounds! Another interesting fact that I observed is that their features and ethnicity I could not place into any of today’s races, their features seemed to transcend black, white, yellow, brown or whatever other colour’s are out there, from one angle I could see Asian features from another middle eastern, but then if they were white you could quite easily think they were European, this I thought was very interesting. There is much more to them than this but these are some interesting facts to know about them when you come across the places of interest and the Bushman themselves.

The Bushman have quite a torrid history after colonialisation, with there population dying out due to changes in environments, laws governing their lifestyle and also unsuccessful attempts to resettle them, their numbers have been reduced to mere thousands today, which is a scary thought considering they are thought to be the link back to the source of man.

We met a lot of people along the journey who taught us a lot about the Bushman, including Ian in Zimbabwe who took us to see Bushman paintings and tell us a history of the people. A very passionate man, who has studied and worked with the bushman a great deal and taught us a great deal about the people and their struggle with the 21st Century. He also told about many relocations after western Academics findings that the bushman could not survive in the desert surrounding they were in and that 100% of these were failures ending in thousands of deaths due to starvation as they were unable to adapt to the new surroundings and hunting patterns. He also told us that one of these relocations and subsequent mass deaths was later discovered to be due to the fact a Diamond company had found diamonds on the land the Bushman were on, the study and its findings was just a rouse to get access to the land!!

We also went to a living museum in Namibia where due to the laws of the land the San Bushman are no longer allowed to hunt which betrays their history and also a huge part of who they are. So the museum is a way for them to adapt and continue to show visitors their traditions whilst acclimating to the modern world. Here is where I went local and became San ‘Fran’ Bushman.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself sitting with the men and listening to the clicks and their animated stories of their past whilst I was also shown and made a proper bow and arrow. Steph was with the women making jewelry out of ostrich eggs. What I found fascinating when we asked the young lady who was translating how old the seniors were, she said they did not know, they just knew what season they were born in! Only the younger generations now have an understanding of age with their modern education including English. The San Bushman are a great people and a pleasure to spend time with.

One of the last places we visited on the journey was on a side trip up the Skeleton coast and Steph and I went to visit the world heritage site of Twyfelfontein (means good well). Here we visited etchings that date from between 2,000 to 200,000 years old, which has been defined by carbon dating tools and implements found in the area. As much as I am not an etchings fan, it was pretty amazing to see the work in the rocks in this valley showing animals that could be hunted as well as a map etched out to show the water holes in the area and what animals frequented them.

The last visit and mention for this blog was in the foothills of the Branberg, Namibia’s tallest peak, here we saw one of the most famous paintings of the ‘white lady’. The paintings have been a source of discussion since they were first found.  Early theories have it as a depiction of the first Europeans in the area and more recently the theory is that it depicts a witch doctor or healer from the local tribe…..for me I do not know, but take a look and see what you think!