On my second day in Namibia, I was introduced to a fascinating yet shy group of people called San people. Also known as the bushmen or Basarwa, they are the oldest inhabitants of southern Africa where they have lived for at least 20,000 years.
While many San people have adapted to modern ways and no longer live the traditional lifestyle in Namibia, it was fascinating to learn about their culture and see how they lived off the harsh African landscape and nature. We listened to the chief of the group speak in the click language ‘Khoisan’ as he showed us how to hunt wildlife in the traditional San way using poison from plants, gather food and source water from shrubs and roots and build a fire by rubbing sticks together.
We even learnt that the San men will sometimes crawl deep into a mongoose hole, sometimes for up to half an hour, to collect dinner for the family entering the intricate maze of corridors at one end and exiting at another, sometimes far from where he first started. Too bad if you have claustrophobia!
The colourful women in the group wore clothes made from Kudu skin on which intricate colourful beads were sewn into the cloth and adorned themselves with beaded headbands and necklaces. The men wore loin cloths, bare buttocks, carried spears and bows and arrows and also wore beaded head bands or necklaces. I tried to ignore the bright coloured flip flops on some of the younger clan.
The owners of the N/a an ku se wildlife sanctuary where I’m currently volunteering in Namibia, opened a lifeline clinic in 2003 for the impoverished San community in a small town named Epukiro in Eastern Namibia.
There are only 27,000 San people in Namibia and the Ancient San Skills Academy which I attended is a joint venture between N/a an ku se and the Nyae Nyae Conservancy. It aims as a reciprocal training venture for the San, and is a great opportunity for guests and visitors to learn about this great culture.