South Africa's Bushmen try to adapt to modern life
The 100,000 Bushmen reside in villages, but they still live close to nature.
Fri, Jul 09, 2010 at 01:02 AM
NEW GENERATION: The biggest challenge for the elders is how to pass on ancestral knowledge like plant gathering and hunting skills. (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The 100,000 San Bushmen descended from southern Africa's first inhabitants are trying to reconcile ancient traditions with the conveniences of modern life.
Far from the stereotype of the 1980 film "The Gods Must be Crazy", young Bushmen listen to R&B and talk on mobile phones. They watch the South African soap opera "7de Laan", ride in cars, shop at corner stores and wear trendy clothes.
The biggest challenge for their elders is how to pass on their ancestral knowledge: plant gathering, speaking in clicks, songs and dances, spirituality, and hunting skills to kill animals whose skins are used in crafts that now cater to tourists.
"The Bushmen live close to nature. Even if they live in villages, they feel in their heart they're still in the bush, but because of government, they have to adapt to a new way of living," said Oupa Dawid Kruiper, leader of 5,000 Bushmen in South Africa's Kalahari Desert.
"My biggest fear is that tradition will disappear, only a bit will stay with modern way," he said in Afrikaans, a "white" South African language.
He was once a nomad in the Kgalagadi National Park, which crosses South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
After being forced off their land, South Africa's government returned 148,000 acres to them in 1999, five years after the end of the white-minority apartheid regime.
But they have little voice in national life, said Andries SteenKamp, a farmer active in San politics.
"Bushmen in Botswana and South Africa are not included in power, contrary to Namibia," he said.
"In the south of Angola, it's a bit better than in Zambia and Zimbabwe where they have no representation," he said. "We hope that the Bushmen can nicely organize themselves, do things for themselves and develop themselves."
Copyright 2010 AFP Global Edition