Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A WALK IN THE BUSH

Dqae Qare.

 

Can you say it?

 

After a week working in Gaborone we decided to make the journey to other parts of Botswana, starting with Ghanzi. An 8-hour bus ride from Gaborone to Ghanzi costs just under 130 Pula (USD20), the earliest bus leaves at 6.00 a.m. There were so many donkeys along the bus route, it’s donkey heaven. We didn’t manage to get contacts for Ghanzi so we spent the first night at the Kalahari Arms Hotel, just a 5-minute walk from the bus station. It’s the oldest hotel in Ghanzi but it’s been maintained very well. We finally had the chance to open a bottle of wine for a belated birthday celebration for Rizwan.

 

The next morning, we were picked up by Komstsa from Dqae Qare, the San (Bushmen) community lodge, 20 km out of Ghanzi, where we decided to stay for a couple of days, hopefully to learn about the San community. Dqae Qare is owned by and taken care by the San community. Over the years, the San community has been forcedly displaced from their lands and relocated into different grouped settlements when their lands were taken over by the Bantu people and the whites. With it they were forced to change their way of life. Originally hunter gatherers, they had to adapt to unfamiliar systems like money. They were given cattle as compensation but not the skills or knowledge in managing cattle. The cattle then either escape into the wild or get eaten by lions. Since then so many of their original skills are lost too because nobody practise them anymore and they’re not handed down to the next generation. Their culture is dying slowly. Sadly, the younger generation are also ashamed of their roots and choose life in bigger towns and cities. The last San village was removed by the government from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

 

Komstsa is from the Dcui tribe and speaks Naro. I had so much difficulty pronouncing the combination of consonants and clicks AND vowels. The tribes come from different locations and speak different languages. What I noticed about the San, or at least the ones I met, is that they have softer face features, their skin a gentle chocolate brown instead of coffee black.

 

Wildebeests, kudus and ostriches roam your front porch freely here. The water is slightly salty but drinkable. Similar to South Africa, you can drink the water straight from the tap in Botswana. The sand has a reddish tinge instead of the normal light brown. It was another win, we were the only ones there, in the bush.

 

On the way to Dqae Qare.

Komstsa (right) accompanied here by Shadreck driving us to Dqae Qare.

 

The view from the side of the lodge.

The establishment is not big but consists of one main accommodation block, a few ‘traditional’ San huts, a camping ground, a kitchen and a rest area where food is normally served. There is also a dance arena and lookout tower. Breakfast and dinner are included in the rates, so it’s a good idea to bring your own supply for lunch.

 

The huts.

There are comfortable beds inside the San huts at the lodge, it is merely an experience but not as real. On the left is the ablution block.

 

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San art and the full moon at night.

 

We went on a bush walk the morning after. We learned a bit about the plants used by the San to be consumed or to be used to heal ailments. Nowadays, the San still gather nuts and berries, their favourite is the brandybush berries, naturally sweet and used to make traditional alcohol (hence the name). Komstsa also showed us animal tracks on the way to the Tatase pan, where we sat observantly, waiting for the animals to come for a drink.

 

Bush walk.

Komstsa explaining about one of the plants during our bush walk.

  

    San child.

A San child.

 

San ladies. 

The kind ladies at the lodge.

 

Spending time with them has brought greater understanding of their life, history and ongoing struggles. A few times while listening to Komstsa, I thought to myself, “All of this sound familiar. It’s just like home.”: - How lands are taken and destroyed in the name of development, communities uprooted as a result.

The greatest challenge is how to make sure that all is not lost – the culture, the tradition, the history, the language, the skills…., most of all, the pride and dignity of the people of the land – before it’s too late.

 

Actual San hut.

This is a present day hut actually occupied by a San family in Dkar, not far from Dqae Qare.

 

Mission: Read – Tears For My Land by Kuela Kiema

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