Ways of the San

  The Kalahari Desert, one of the driest places on this planet, its very name meaning the great thirst, a place of vast red sands and brutal heat. This land is home to the indigenous San people. They have claimed for themselves a region that would spell death for most people. The Kalahari is characterised by seemingly endless dry, sun burnt days with an interval of a few inches of rain during the monsoon.

The San or Bushmen have lived a life highly intertwined with nature. They entrust their entire existence to the changing winds of this vast desert. They form small family communities around the Kalahari leading semi-nomadic lives, hunting and gathering food and water for sustenance. The various tribes have a rich culture and tradition revolving around their environment and origins. Characterised by dark skin, mongoloid eyes and a petite frame, these people have been a part of the desert ecosystem for a long time. Their way of life is based on togetherness, exchanging of gifts the only form of commerce they undertake. Decisions are based on common consensus with everyone getting a say. Woman command high respect though they seldom take part in the extensive hunting expeditions. Tubers and roots are consumed to supplement the lack of water in this region.

These people do not entertain the concept of possession, everything belongs to everyone. They kill prey using cleverly devised poison-tipped arrows, praying and thanking the beast for its sacrifice. They make do with the little around them, using ostrich shells as bowls and drawing water from the sands using hollow grass. This community, innocent to the ways of civilisation has been constantly harassed by modern society. Displaced from their land, abolished from hunting and condemned to lower strata of the hierarchy. The San continue to struggle to upkeep their identity.

They have been the subject of several documentaries as well as movies that have strived to show the world the ways of these children of nature. Following various legal battles as well as conflicts this group has now undergone some modernisation, their nomadic ways put away. Yet, their way of life remains an inspiration to all.

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