Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tsumkwe - Home of the San / Bushman

The small, spread-out settlement of Tsumkwe lies at the western margin of the Kalahari and is the district centre of former Bushman Land, today part of the Otjozondjupa region. The San, coloquially also called bushmen, live in this area. They are the oldest people in Namibia, living in southern Africa for an estimated 20,000 years. The South African Homeland policy restricted them to the remote "Bushmanland", a semi-desert area between Khaudum National Park and Omaheke. It can be accessed via the C44 road, which turns off the B8 north of Grootfontein. The distance to Tsumkwe is 250 km.

The San are masterly bow hunters. Their bow is relatively small and the range of the arrows is below 25 metres. Therefore the San need to get quite close to their prey, but the supple hunters are very skilled and good at that. If an animal has been hit by a poisoned arrow, it doesn't stand a chance to escape. The absolutely deadly arrow poison is made from the larvae of a certain beetle (diamphidia nigroornata). According to a traditional recipe, which is only known to the San, varous herbs are added to increase the deadly effect. A human being would also not have any chance to survive even the smallest amouunt of this poison in the blood stream, and no anti-dote exists.

 Traditionally the San had no leaders or chiefs, personal decisions were made individually and group decisions were left to the group. When times were good groups could swell to over one hundred people but during drought times groups might dwindle to family units of less than 10 people.

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