The Forgotten People of Botswana
They’re soft-spoken and humble, they are masters of living off the land, and they are the forgotten generation of the Kalahari. Botswana is one of the worlds most popular and exclusive safari destinations, yet the majority of the many thousand tourists which indulge in the Okavango's pristine waters and who immerse themselves into Africa’s largest elephant populations, don't know or even give a second thought to one of the worlds oldest tribal people; the Khoisan. These people regularly referred to as the Bushmen of the Kalahari are located in the central Botswana region and generally live a hunter-gatherer existence stemming over 70,000 years.
These are the people made famous by “The Gods Must Be Crazy” movie, and written about in countless studies. Even filmed and documented in journals, but their silent existence in one of the most inhospitable areas that God ever created makes tourism benefit almost impossible.
One of my very first encounters with a Bushman family was many years back when a week-long trans-Kalahari took us well into no man's land. Where one would find burnt out 4X4’s chassis stuck on over-grown sandy two-tracks, and leathery animal carcasses stripped to the very core by hardened nomadic lions. We would see brown hyena scuttle across our path at the fall of light, and in the morning find only tracks of animals which stalked around our camp in the dead dark of night. Existence in this land was not only far from ideal, but would seem utterly impossible to even an experienced bush nut like Bear Grylls.
Here we came across the old lady who knew no language from our world, and who wore treasured keys around her neck and plastic wrapping up to her thighs. We quickly learnt about the plastic wrapping as we were immediately devoured by a squadron of black ants which stretched to the horizon and beyond. We shared some of our food belongings as she happily posed for an image, but the keys for no doors which she cherished will remain unspoken of.
Lastly, they taught the children to make a fire in the ancient tribal way.It wasn’t until many years later that I actually moved to Botswana and the Kalahari became a favourite destination of mine. It was then that I was involved in sharing the behaviour and lifestyle of a small Bushman family with willing and curious international traveller. It was a luxury camp, but I was still lucky enough to learn a little more of these ancient tribal people, and introduce them to my family. We became regular visitors of the busman family at the renowned lodge, and my son was even entitled his Bushman name, Xcgara from his favourite family member Dusa. The word Xcgara is pronounced with an upper mouth click and translates to Slender or Slim.
Today as I create bespoke itineraries for my esteemed clientele, I so want to include this arid land and its nomadic people into the journey, but my provoking mind questions my morals and integrity as I wonder if it’s right. Are we just over exploiting and capitalising culture and is it merely driving commerce and value from other humans generative difference?
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but the Bushmen of the Kalahari are a fading nation with highly endangered traditions and cultures, and their existence is diminishing like sandstone in the wind. So surely without sharing their insights, stories and images across the world, then inevitably their social indifference and cultural path into the future is compromised and shortened without repair or despair?