Who Are the Bushmen?

The most genetically diverse and oldest population of people on earth, the Bushmen of Southern Africa are comprised of various tribal groups who are directly descended from mankind’s early ancestors, making them the living roots of our collective human family tree. Known to be the most masterful hunters and animal trackers in the world, the Bushmen have epitomized and maintained the hunter-gatherer origins of all mankind for close to 80,000 years.

Bushmen mythology speaks to their profound connection and relationship with nature, the elements, the animals, and the connection between the spiritual and natural world. Their worldview and ways of learning and passing on knowledge have formed from aeons of living according to the cycles and rhythms of natural human biology and nature-– unbounded by the constructs of measured time, space and the assignment of symbolic, monetary value.

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Like the majority of indigenous peoples worldwide, the Bushmen have suffered greatly from the negative ramifications of colonization and the exploitation of land and natural resources. This has resulted in the loss of many Bushmen lives as well as their ancestral lands and their rights to hunt and access to water, which to this day, threatens their physical survival as well as the survival of their traditional cultural wisdom. The disappearance of the Bushmen’s way of life would be a great loss to humanity as a whole, as we have largely lost our own connection to the natural world and the ecological community structure that allowed human beings to live and thrive as a species for hundreds of thousands of years.

 

Current Challenges

_3261096_proThe marginalization currently confronting the Bushmen is a legacy of colonization and the perpetuated belief that indigenous peoples are less than human. Up until 1936, hunting permits were still issued in South Africa that allowed a Bushman to be killed for sport. The discriminatory mindset impacting the Bushmen today can be seen across Southern Africa where Bushmen and their traditional knowledge are considered to be worthless or inferior, with local names for the Bushmen translating to mean, “of no value”.

In Botswana, where the Bushmen collaborating with this Project live, the current social and political climate is dismissive of and hostile to the Bushmen. The Bushmen are coerced according to governmental policies to assimilate into the dominant culture, shifting their traditional hunter-gatherer way of life to an agrarian one to match the dominant culture. These attitudes affect all levels of government from the local level where the Bushmen are afforded little to no legal protection of rights, to the highest reaches of government policy.

In recent years, the Botswana government withdrew game permits allowing the Bushmen the right to hunt and gather on their ancestral lands on the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, removed water tanks and dismantled the primary water pump used by the Bushmen to access water, and forced relocations to government settlements. On settlements, Bushmen are exposed to persecution, poverty, alcoholism, disease, and violent crimes inflicted on them by non-Bushmen.

_3261442_proEven though the Bushmen have won high court rulings against their illegal eviction from their ancestral lands and these courts declared that they be allowed access to water, the government failed to repair the dismantled pump, despite UN pressure. At the same time as denying the Bushmen rights to access water, the government drilled new boreholes to attract wildlife for tourist safaris and allowed a new lodge to be built in the reserve, complete with swimming pool.

After the Bushmen’s court case wins and a number of other legal challenges to the Botswana government’s policy regarding the Bushman, their long-standing lawyer was barred from entering Botswana and has not been allowed to return. Direct activism by human rights organizations has helped to bring international attention to the struggles of the Bushmen, but has been met with similar opposition. Activism directly attacking or criticizing the country of Botswana for their treatment of the Bushmen has a reverse effect, often inciting violence towards or backlash on the Bushmen communities.

 

How Creative Activism Will Help

In our most recent visit to Botswana to work with our Nharo Bushmen friends, the Project Team was warned by fellow supporters of the Bushmen against direct activism, which could result in repercussions against them by state authorities. This inspired us even further as to the importance of creating a fictional, animated film that will portray the Bushmen skills and culture in a positive light and garner empathy for them as a people without calling unwanted attention to any specific village or person. This is the power of creative activism.

_3262069_proThe Project’s goal is to support the Bushmen’s decision to live their traditional lifestyle and share this struggle with the world to address the racism and coerced assimilation that is threatening their survival. An ancillary benefit of the Project will be to provide meaningful insights into the Bushmen’s way of life to young adults and adults of modernized societies in an entertaining and relatable animated film.

Historically, films about the Bushmen have been well received and successful, making them an ideal vehicle to achieve the Project’s goal. An example of the potential reach for Song of the Kalahari can be seen in the 10 year old documentary about the African Bushmen, The Great Dance, which according to the film’s Emmy nominated director, Craig Foster, has sold over 10 million copies to date and has been watched over 100 million times online as a pay-what-you-want release. The 1980 film The Gods Must Be Crazy, grossed over $140 million in the first 4 years after release.

The Bushmen community we are working with will receive direct benefit from the funds generated by the Project. All profits will help protect the Bushmen from the ongoing threat of forced relocation and allow them to preserve and maintain their traditional life ways and culture for generations to come.

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