Unfortunately much of the area
where the traditional Bushmen live was ravaged by warfare during the South
African Apartheid and the Angolan Bush War. The war was very detrimental
to the Bushmen nation. With the ready availability of guns many of them
lost the ability to hunt traditionally, and many succumbed to alcoholism.
Food from the veld (the land) is
very scarce due to recurrent drought, and as indiscriminate shooting has
decimated the game that the Bushmen traditionally hunted, the Bushmen in
this area suffer from famine. Few of them have any form of sustainable
income, and worse still, they suffer direct competition for food sources
from elephants indigenous to the region.
Some of our cooperative's
members proudly showing their finished jewelry!
Elize and Hendrik are a couple who
have dedicated their lives to helping the Bushmen. They started a
cooperative in 2001 and Elize and Hendrik have been living amongst the San
(or Bushmen) since early 2001. Zanzibar buys and sells the products from
their cooperative in our gallery/store and online. They work with
artists in around 37 different villages within a radius of 60km from their
home. The artists work from home and Hendrik drives his truck out to the
people loaded up with maize, sugar, tea, coffee, soap, soup packets, dried
beans, and other essential commodities. He exchanges these good for the
handmade articles made by the San. Most of the families work with
ostrich shell, but three families concentrate on woodcarving.
The wood they use is named “tambotie”.
Due to the abuse of alcohol and the little relevance of hard currency to
Bushman culture, the workers are paid in durable items instead of cash.
The Bushmen determine the price
of their products and a significant portion of the retail price you paid
goes directly to the artisans and to provide services and fund projects
for them (including medical and the digging of wells).
typical road (when there
is one!) in Bushmenland in Namibia
The Bushmen of Namibia have been exploited throughout South African
history by white settlers and more recently by the Herero people of
Namibia. They are treated as second-class citizens in their own country
and are gentle people by nature. When confronted, rather than fight the
San move on to new land, which is why they find themselves today in the
most marginal desert land of Namibia. They face an inadequate food supply,
especially in winter, and are in direct competition for food with
elephants. On this note, Elize tries to encourage vegetable farming and
MAKING THE OSTRICH SHELL BEADS:
The ostrich shell beads themselves
are each made by hand in a time consuming and intricate process. The shell
is broken into shards and smaller pieces are broken from the shards. The
small pieces are made more or less round by tapping them with a piece of
horn, stone or metal. A flat stone is used as an anvil and the
eggshell pieces are placed on this and shaped.
A hole is drilled through the
centre of the beads using a hand held homemade drill and they are then
strung onto a rolled sinew thread until they fit tight against each other,
and then they are rubbed with a brittle stone on the person's thigh to
smooth and polish them.
rubbing the nearly
finished ostrich shells on their leg to polish and smooth them
Although the natural ostrich eggshell color is off-white, the Bushmen
artists often use natural dyes to color the beads in different shades of
tan, brown, and black. In our necklace and bracelets you will find pieces
of roots, reeds, porcupine quills, tambotie ( wood and seeds used to
accent the ostrich eggshell beads. Each piece is unique, and purchasing a
piece of ostrich eggshell jewelry for yourself or as a gift directly
supports the maintenance of a traditional craft, as well as providing a
sustainable income to the Bushmen of Namibia.
More about the Bushmen
The Bushmen, San, Basarwa, ǃKung or
Khwe are indigenous people of southern Africa which spans most areas of
South Africa, Zimbabwe , Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia
and Angola. They were and are traditionally hunter-gatherers, part of the
Khoisan group, and are related to the traditionally pastoral Khoikhoi.
Starting in the 1950s, through the 1990s, some have switched to farming.
Genetic evidence suggests they are one of the oldest, if not the oldest,
peoples in the world — a "genetic Adam" according to Spencer Wells, from
which all humans can ultimately trace their genetic heritage.
The terms San, Khwe, Bushmen, and Basarwa have all been used to refer to
hunter-gatherer peoples of southern Africa. Each of these terms has a
problematic history, as they have been used by outsiders to refer to them,
often with pejorative connotations. The individual groups identify by
names such as Juǀʼhoansi and ǃKung (the punctuation characters
representing different clicks), and most call themselves "Bushmen" when
referring to themselves collectively.
The term "San" was historically applied by their ethnic relatives and
historic rivals, the Khoikhoi. This term means "outsider" in the Nama
language and was derogatory because it distinguished the Bushmen from what
the Khoikhoi called themselves, namely the First People. Western
anthropologists adopted "San" extensively in the 1970s, where it remains
preferred in academic circles. The term "Bushmen" is widely used, but
opinions vary on whether it is appropriate – given that the term is
sometimes viewed as pejorative.
In South Africa, the term "San" has become favored in official contexts,
being included in the blazon of the new national coat-of-arms. In South
Africa "Bushman" is considered derogatory by some groups. Angola does not
have an official term for Bushmen, but they are sometimes referred to as
Bushmen, Kwankhala, or Bosquímanos (the Portuguese term for Bushmen). In
Lesotho they're referred to as Baroa, which is where the Sesotho name for
"South", "Boroa", comes from. Neither Zambia nor Zimbabwe have official
terms, although in the latter case the terms Amasili and Batwa are
sometimes used.  In Botswana, the officially used term is Basarwa,
where it is partially acceptable to some Bushmen groups, although Basarwa,
a Tswana language label, also has negative connotations. The term is a
class 2 noun (as indicated by the "ba-" class marker), while an older
class 6 variant, "Masarwa," is now almost universally considered
Since the mid-1990s the central government of Botswana has implemented a
relocation policy, aiming to move the Bushmen out of their ancestral land
on the Central Kalahari Game Reserve into newly created settlements.
Although the government categorically deny that relocation has been
forced, a recent court ruling confirmed that the removal was
unconstitutional and residents were forcibly removed.
Opponents to the relocation policy claim that the government's intent is
to clear the area – an area the size of Denmark – for the lucrative
tourist trade and for diamond mining. This is strenuously denied on the
government's official web site, stating that although exploration had
taken place, it concluded that mining activity would not be viable and
that the issue was not related to the relocation policy.
It is further claimed that the group as a whole has little voice in the
national political process and is not one of the tribal groups recognized
in the constitution of Botswana. Over the generations, the Bushmen of
South Africa have continued to be absorbed into the African population,
particularly the Griqua sub-group, which is an Afrikaans-speaking people
of predominantly Khoisan that has certain unique cultural markers that set
them apart from the rest of the Africans.
On December 13, 2006, the Bushmen won a historic ruling in their
long-running court case against the government. By a 2-1 majority, the
court said the refusal to allow the Basarwa into the Central Kalahari Game
Reserve (CKGR) without a permit was "unlawful and unconstitutional." It
also said the state's refusal to issue special game licenses to allow the
Bushmen to hunt was "unlawful" and "unconstitutional" and found that the
Bushmen were "forcibly and wrongly deprived of their possessions" by the
government. However, the court did not compel the government to provide
services such as water to any Bushmen who returned to the reserve. More
than one thousand Bushmen intend to return to the Central Kalahari Game
Reserve, one of Africa's largest protected nature reserves. However,
only limited number of Bushmen have been allowed to return to this land.
In April 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) criticised
Botswana's government for not allowing certain Bushmen to return.
The Bushman kinship system reflects their interdependence as traditionally
small, mobile foraging bands. Also, the kinship system is comparable to
the Eskimo kinship system, with the same set of terms as in Western
countries, and also employ a name rule and an age rule. The age rule
resolves any confusion arising around kinship terms, because the older of
two people always decides what to call the younger. Since relatively few
names circulate approximately only 35 names per gender, and each child is
named for a grandparent or other relative, Bushmen are guaranteed an
enormous family group with whom they are welcome to travel.
Traditional gathering gear is simple and effective: a hide sling, blanket,
and cloak called a kaross to carry foodstuffs, firewood, smaller bags, a
digging stick, and perhaps a smaller version of the kaross to carry a
baby. Women would gather, and men hunted using poison arrows and spears in
laborious days-long excursions. Children had no duties besides to play,
and leisure was very important to the Bushmen. They spent large amounts of
time with conversation, joking around, music, and sacred dances.
Villages ranged in sturdiness from
nightly rain shelters in the warm spring, when people moved constantly in
search of budding greens, to formalized rings when they congregated in the
dry season around the only permanent waterholes. Early spring, a hot dry
period following a cool dry winter, was the hardest season, after autumn
nuts were exhausted, villages concentrated around waterholes, and most
plants were dead or dormant. Meat was most important in the dry months,
when wildlife could never range far from receding waters.
Traditionally the San were an egalitarian society. Although they did have
hereditary chiefs, the chief’s authority was limited and the bushmen
instead made decisions among themselves, on a consensus basis. Women's
status was and is relatively equal. Women did not begin bearing children
until about 18 or 19 years of age due to late first menstruation because
of the low calorie and low fat diet and had them spaced four years apart,
due to lack of enough breast milk to feed more than one child at a time,
and the requirements of mobility leading to the difficulty of carrying
more than one child at a time.
Children were very well behaved and treated kindly by their parents and
group. Children spent much of the day playing with each other and are not
segregated by sex, neither sex is trained to be submissive or fierce, and
neither sex is restrained from expressing the full breadth of emotion that
seems inherent in the human spirit".
The San economy was a gift economy, based on giving each other gifts on a
regular basis rather than on trading or purchasing goods and services.
Bushmen had an advanced early culture evidenced by archaeological data.
For example, Bushmen from the Botswana region migrated south to the
Waterberg Massif in the era 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. They left rock
paintings at the Lapala Wilderness area and Goudriver recording their life
and times, including characterizations of rhinoceros, elephant and a
variety of antelope species (resembling impala, kudu and eland, all
present day inhabitants).
Around AD 1,000 Bantu tribes began to expand into bushman occupied areas
and pushed the bushmen into more inhospitable areas such as the Kalahari
The Bushmen of the Kalahari were first brought to the Western world's
attention in the 1950s by South African author Laurens van der Post with
the famous book The Lost World of the Kalahari, which was also a BBC TV
The 1980 comedy movie The Gods Must Be Crazy portrays a Kalahari Bushman
tribe's first encounter with an artifact from the outside world (a Coke
bottle). In 1969, the director of this movie, Jamie Uys, had directed Lost
in the Desert, in which a small boy stranded in the desert encounters a
group of wandering Bushmen before, and is helped by them and then
abandoned due to a misunderstanding created by the lack of a common
language and culture.
John Marshall documented the lives of Bushmen in the Nyaer Nyaer region of
Namibia over more than a 50-year period. His early film The Hunters,
released in 1957, shows a giraffe hunt during the 1950s. N!!Ai: The Story
of a !Kung Woman (1980) is the account of a woman who grew up while the
Bushmen were living as autonomous hunter-gatherers and was later forced
into a dependent life in the government created community at Tsumkwe. A
Kalahari Family (2002) is a five-part, six-hour series documenting 50
years in the lives of the Juǀʼhrtoansi of Southern Africa, from 1951 to
2000. Marshall was a fierce and vocal proponent of the Bushman cause
throughout his life, which was, in part, due to strong kinship ties, and
had a Bushman wife in his early 20s.
In Wilbur Smith's The Burning Shores, the San people are portrayed through
two major characters, O'wa and H'ani, and the Bushmen's struggles, history
and beliefs are touched upon in great detail. The Burning Shores is a
volume in the Courtney's of Africa series.
PBS's series How Art Made the World compares San cave painting 200 years
ago to Paleolithic European painting 14,000 years old. Because of their
similarities, the San can help us understand the reasons for ancient cave
paintings. Lewis Williams believes that their trance states (traveling to
the spirit world) are directly related to the reasons people went deep
into caves, experienced sensory deprivation, and painted their visions
onto the cave walls.
Spencer Wells' 2003 book The Journey of Man—in connection with National
Geographic's Genographic Project—discusses a genetic analysis of the San
and asserts their blood contains the oldest genetic markers found on
earth, making the Bushmen humankind's "genetic Adam". These genetic
markers are present on the y chromosome and are therefore passed down
through thousands of generations in a relatively pure form. The
documentary continues to trace these markers throughout the world,
demonstrating that all of humankind can be traced back to the African
continent and that the San are the last, most genetically unadulterated,
remnant of humankind's ancient ancestors.
Zanzibar Tribal Art
1731 L Street Sacramento CA 95811