The Bushmen of Tsumkwe by Nick Smith The Bushmen are the indigenous people of southern Africa and have lived there for tens of thousands of years. As with so many early people around the world, they face a barrage of pressures from the modern world that threatens their traditional way of life. Recent history has been particularly unkind to the Bushmen who have had to endure genocide, forced migration and disenfranchisement. They have little defence against the assault of diseases such as HIV/AIDs and TB, while alcoholism, depression, boredom and abject poverty take their toll on a people struggling to map out a future with their identity in tact. I visited the Bushmen people of the remote north-western Botswana and north-eastern Namibia region, where some of the problems are pressingly obvious. Water and food security, economic deprivation, health, education and erosion of cultural identity are features of everyday life. The Bushmen in the tiny village of Tsumkwe, a few miles inside Namibia along the eastern border with Botswana, might be more fortunate than others as their poverty is alleviated by community projects that enable them to generate income from selling traditional bush crafts, such as skins, necklaces and knives. The income has measurable positive effects on the overall condition of their community, which unlike so many others, not only thrives, but flourishes. While the Bushmen of Tsumkwe are happy for rare visitors to their village to walk in the bush with them as they gather food, they hardly ever allow full access photography of the type in this set. All the photographs were shot in one day, an unforgettable day that I spent with the Bushmen of Tsumkwe. To read more about the Bushmen of southern Africa visit www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/bushmen The Bushmen people of Tsumkwe prepare to go into the bush to demonstrate their traditional hunter-gatherer skills Men and women of the village depart for the bush to gather food. This scene is unusual because normally the Bushmen walk in line with a front and rear guard to protect themselves from predators. A bowman of the Bushmen in Tsumkwe listens for signs of movement in the bush. Bushman archer demonstrating hunting techniques in Tsumkwe, north-eastern Namibia. This man had his left arm amputated after being hit by 'friendly fire'. Another Bushman accidentally shot him with a poison-tipped arrow. After help had arrived it took four hours to drive him to the nearest hospital. Walking single file through the long grass the Bushmen are on the lookout for telltale signs that give away the presence of water-bearing plants. One small part of the huge array of roots, nuts, berries, leaves and other food that the bush yields to the expert gathering skills that have been passed down through hundreds of generations of Bushmen. This young boy gathered wild flowers from the bush and gave them to his mother. Making fire: although they have lighters and matches, many Bushmen still make fire the original way, creating heat with friction of rotating wood poles.This man is developing the fire by blowing into the dry grass Smoking is a social event and the men and women sit together squatting on their haunches sharing a pipe that is filled with a mixture of dry herbs and leaves gathered from the bush Most Bushmen today wear modern clothes, but at Tsumkwe traditional animal skins are still worn. Men and women are bare from the waist up, although this is likely to change with the influence of western media that penetrates far into even the remotest Bushman areas. In the evening children of the village prepare to watch a 'Healing Ceremony' in which the adults of the village dance around a central fire. As the sun goes down the 'Healing Ceremony' continues for several hours.
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