Monday, February 13, 2023

Bush People of Tanzania

Another fabulous lesson on a culture that has almost nothing in common with ours. The Hadzabe people are hunter gatherers and are in danger of becoming extinct. We had to drive quite a ways along a very rough road that resembled a dry river bed. There are only about 1300 Hadzabe spread over many small groups - some so remote the government doesn’t even know how many or where they are. The men mostly wear animal skins but had 'western' clothes as well.

This group had about 30 men, women, children. Their homes begin as wood frames which are then covered in sisal (a type of agave). 

During the rainy season they live inside the baobab trees which are naturally hollow.

They are a very vocal, animated and gregarious people. Their language is one of the few click languages still surviving and really hard for us (me) to replicate. One member grabbed a two stringed instrument called a zeze and led the others in song. Their music is more polyphonous than the Maasai (blending melodies with some harmony) and call and response is common. 

Then they invited the music teacher up for a song. I tried my best!

The Hadzabe people are the only tribe in Tanzania allowed to hunt/kill animals and it’s their main source of food besides gathering. They'll hunt baboons, zebras, even wildebeest. They seem very proud of their hunting skill.

They gave us a chance to try their bows. Some limited success and the general consensus was that these were powerful weapons.

The tips of their arrows are unique to each type of prey. Bird arrows have a wooden tip and a piece of corn cob intended to knock the bird down. Baboon arrowheads are barbed metal and arrowheads for larger animals will have poisonous tips. I think there are 8 types in all.

Time to take us hunting. On the way some women had found and dug up a type of edible tuber among some trees.

Then there was a flurry of activity and the hunters all raced over to a small bush with bows drawn. We had no idea what was happening.

Within a few seconds one young hunter emerged with a mouse on the end of his arrow.

Then it was time to cook the mouse. Fire was started using a stick and piece of wood (just like they try to teach you in Girl Guides). They made it look pretty easy.

After roasting the mouse they offered us a taste. No takers!

A final song/dance. Here the leader is in the centre and has some metal jingles on his ankle that you can hear.

I couldn’t help but think that we tourists had witnessed a 'performance' but the entire experience seemed authentic and from their hearts which made it so memorable.

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