Several years ago, we had a life changing visit with a village of Bushmen in the African Kalahari. Like most indigenous peoples, the Bushmen people have lost their rights and access to the ancestral territories and natural resources that allowed them to live as a hunter-gatherers for millennia. Prevented from the ability and freedom to subsist using their traditional skills, they are forced into poverty and assimilation, which are rapidly destroying the Bushmen culture. On our trip, we were deeply inspired by the village of Bushmen we met. They are committed to maintaining their traditional lifeways to ensure that the depth of their cultural wisdom and expert-level knowledge of the Kalahari landscape does not become lost. In dedication to this cause, they asked us as filmmakers for help to share their stories with the world, and the idea for Song of the Kalahari was born.
As team of experienced filmmakers, we are excited to be working in creative collaboration with this Bushmen community who has asked for their stories to be shared. Early on we recognized that animation was the best medium to convey the Bushmen’s stories as it would provide them with anonymity, allowing them speak the truth about their experiences without fear of backlash. Additionally this project is supported by the advisement of a Khomani Bushmen cultural liaison and several project advisors who have been working closely with the Bushmen community for close to a decade.
Athena Gam (Production Team) has directed a number of low-budget films and documentaries. As a screenwriter, Athena has written and developed live-action and animation screenplays, working with Shrek producer John H. Williams, Oscar nominated stop-animation film director Mike Johnson (The Corpse Bride) and Oscar nominated animated feature film director John Stevenson (Kung Fu Panda). In professional theater, Athena worked with influential playwrights such as Athol Fugard, August Wilson and playwright, producer and television series creator Jon Robin Bates. As a director and co-founder of Emerging Beyond Films, Athena is passionate about working with indigenous peoples and sharing stories that evoke, awaken, and inspire.
Eric Lake (Production Team) is a producer and co-founder of Emerging Beyond Films, which he launched to create films that promote social change and shift widespread consciousness through the power of narrative storytelling. During his development deal with producer John H. Williams and Vanguard Films, Eric oversaw the development of live-action and animated films, working with several Best Animated Feature Oscar nominated directors. An alumni of the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Eric has worked on animated feature films for Warner Bros., Fox, Starz Media, and Disney. He was instrumental in setting up animation studios for Vanguard Films & Animation in Los Angeles, London and Vancouver.
Anna Festus (Project Advisor) is an Ovambo and Khomani Bushmen woman of the “Red Dunes” people of the southern Kalahari. She is a cultural liaison for the Khomani in South Africa and has traveled worldwide as a speaker and representative of her people. Anna has been a fieldworker for the South African San Institute (SASI) and served as personal assistant to her uncle, the late notable traditional Khomani Bushmen leader, Oom Dawid Kruiper. Anna is currently writing a book on the history of her people from their perspective as well as working on the creation of a veldschool and an eco-tourism project for the Khomani Bushmen in Upington, South Africa.
Dr. Nicole Apelian (Project Advisor) is a cultural anthropologist and Southern Africa specialist, whose ongoing relationship with the Bushmen has led to the study and implementation of restorative cultural programs to preserve Bushmen intergenerational knowledge. Her doctorate is focused in Cultural Anthropology within the field of Sustainability Education and she is currently working on an ethnobotanical study of Bushmen plant uses in the Kalahari Basin. Nicole is an herbalist, traditional skills instructor, and a graduate advisor at Prescott College. As a challenger on the second season of History Channel’s TV series “Alone”, Nicole thrived on her own in the wilderness with little more than a knife and her know how for 57 days.
Jon Young (Project Advisor) is an author, leader in the field of nature-based education, and board member of the Origins Project Trust, who has been studying and working with the Bushmen for several decades. A master of animal tracking, Jon has appeared as an expert in numerous documentaries concerning nature and ecology, and travels widely to teach throughout North America, Europe, Australia and southern Africa. Jon is the founder of the 8 Shields Institute, an international network of consultants and trainers working to cultivate effective nature-connection mentoring programs in communities and organizations around the world as well as co-founder of the Nature Connection Mentoring Foundation, an organization dedicated to aiding and promoting nature-based cultural regeneration for the benefit of current and future generations.