"What if the point is to stop and listen to the birdsong, to watch the dragonflies hover, then look up at the undersides of leaves moving together in the breeze? What if the point is to invite these others into your movement, to bring trees, wind, grass, dragonflies into your family... to relate, to experience things on their own terms? What if the point from the beginning has been to simply be?”
derrick jensen - a language older than words
photo: Phillipe Laport
There are still people in this world who remember what it was like to move with the seasons, to follow animals, how to track, where to dig for food, make medicine from plants, who spend warm nights with the certainty of a fireside making music and dancing in soft sand, barefoot, falling asleep to uncountable stars.
These people have now been forced to settle, their nomadic way of life no longer possible in the fast moving commercial world of business, farming, land ownership and national parks that only allow certain people through their gates. But although they cannot live as they used to, now wear faded, torn, 5th-hand-me-down jeans and shoes sewn together with sinew, they still remember.
As they walk their hands gesture the movements of steenbok, leopard and spring hare from the night before; in sand that looks dry and lifeless they know where to dig for tubers that are the last vestiges of water in the dry season at its zenith; all around them are plants used for any sort of ailment; they remember how to make fire with sticks.
This project is a request from one Bushmen community in Botswana for an exchange. An invitation to come and spend some time with them learning to track, set traps, forage for edible and medicinal plants, make music with mouth bows and thumb piano (mbira) and jewellery from ostrich egg shell, hear the complex beauty of the remaining click languages, and leave with an altered sense of time, a new understanding of what it takes to live off the land and an un-namable sense of the mysterious passed across by these remarkable people of the bush.
It must be noted that the Bushmen are also people of the modern world. The scenes of traditional people in skins and loincloths exist now only as photographs from the past.
Today they wear jeans, t-shirts, smoke harsh leaf tobacco rolled in crumpled newspaper and their community has a highway close to it which has lead to the wild-fire spread of HIV and TB. Yet they are still masters in tracking, firekeeping, plant knowledge, animal behaviour, craft, music, rhythmn. These skills hold very little use for them in these modern days however, where they do not have free hunting rights on the land they live on and fire sticks don't help to buy their children their next meal.
Through this exchange they can earn a living and we can learn to remember.
journey available on request only
The clip below is the myth of Pisaboro, about how fire came to the humans, told while using a hand drill to make fire.