San Bushmen in Namibia

One of the most outstanding experiences of our 61 day safari was this visit to a San village well off the beaten track in Namibia.
Not that there are many beaten tracks there.
When we reached the end of the road we found a few men and children there.
One of the men indicated the we should wait and then left down a path.
While we waited I took out some strings and offered them to the kids so they could do some string figures.
The youngest ones had trouble with how to get started but once over that hurdle it was clear they had done it before.

In a few minutes a young man appeared.
He assured us, in excellent English, that we were welcome to take pictures and offered to take us to the village.
Then he set off at a good pace into the bush.

The village.

We met several families.

We joined one of the families for a walk while they showed us how they found food and water.
Their culture requires them to leave enough of any berries, water, roots, and other resources for the next person to come along.
You can use a grass straw to get water from where it has collected in holes in certain trees.
Be sure to leave a straw in the hole so it will be easy to identify it as a water source.

Part of the surface of the roots of some plants can be ground and the pulp squeezed to get water as well.
Because not much was taken the roots could be reburied so they could be used again.

Here's how it's done.

Other roots and fruits are good to eat and some have medicinal properties.

The men all carried a metal knife, a bow, and a quiver of arrows.
The arrows were tipped with metal or bone points coated with a potent poison that I was told could down a giraffe.

I didn't get an explanation of the tattoos that some of the villagers had.
Since they aren't particularly ornamental they were probably the result of traditional medical practice.

Back in the village,
A couple of the guys from our group decided to try to make fire the bushman way by rubbing two sticks together.
one of the bushmen showed them how to spin the stick in a depression in another stick until it produces a pile of dust, smoke, and a spark.
Then gather that in a handful of tinder and blow gently until it bursts into flame. 
It was a long process but ultimately successful.

I couldn't resist getting pictures of these youngsters,

Some of the women were making beads for headbands like this girl is wearing and necklaces out of ostrich shells.
They take bits of ostrich eggs and rub them on a stone to make them into disks. 
Then use this stick and point to drill the disks to make beads.

Others were giving or getting hair care.

Meanwhile one of the men offered (using gestures not words) to teach me how to make and shoot a bushman style bow and arrow,

He showed me how to make a bowstring for the bow I had just made. 
Start with fibers from sisal, twist two bunches separately, then wrap them together, add more to a bunch when you get close to the end, and continue. 
Never add to both bunches at the same time so the fibers in one overlap the ends of the other. 
He moves fast but it is a slow process.

Archery lesson.
Having made the bow I had to try it out and my bushman friend was happy to show me how.

The target was a bundle of reeds shaped like a small antelope (if you used your imagination).
Neither of us hit the target but we both came close. 
I have the bow, a complete arrow with a metal point, and a giraffe bone point for another.

I also had the chance to share string figures in the village.

One of the girls from the Bushman village had seen me do a magic trick where I apparently pulled a string through one of the kids.  
She didn't know the trick so it didn't work.

They had set up a "shop" on some poles with necklaces, headbands, and wooden tools.
We selected several items of course.

There was a musical instrument there as well.
At the end of the video is a brief glimpse of some spears.

But finally it was time to reluctantly leave.

Thank you Andrea and Marielle for sharing the pictures from our trip.

For more of our African adventure go here.

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