Bushman hunter

Basarwa are believed to be the earliest inhabitants of Botswana and the surrounding areas, they are currently the second largest group of indigenous hunter-gatherers in Africa, second only to the Pygmies of equatorial Africa who number some 200,000. Their earliest history and culture is recorded in rock paintings, folk tales and songs. The proper name for this group of people is San meaning 'person' but they are more commonly referred to as 'Bushmen'.

Although they are increasing in number their traditional life-style has changed due to acculturation and inter-marriage. At present there are 3,000 Basarwa living predominately by hunting and gathering. By tradition Basarwa live in groups, which consists of a number of related families. They live entirely by hunting and collecting veld foods. As these people move frequently they have no established homes and make temporary huts using branches planted in a semicircle, interwoven at the top and covered with tuffs of grass.

Bushmen tribe forced out of its homeland
The Bushmen, with their slight build and Asiatic faces, were the first inhabitants of southern Africa, eking out an existence as hunter-gatherers for thousands of years, have faced persecution both by Bantu African and white immigrants to the region over the past millennium and there are now believed to be about 100,000 Bushmen in the region, mainly in Botswana and Namibia.

Most were forced to give up their nomadic lifestyle and moved into communities now riven with alcoholism and social disorder. The reserve was created in 1961 specifically to allow a few thousand Bushmen to continue as hunter-gatherers, surviving off the vast numbers of springbok and other game that exists in the Kalahari desert.

Critics accused it of ‘ethnic cleansing’, moving the Bushmen out of the reserve so it could be exploited for diamond mining and tourism. They also said that the campaign mirrors the ‘racist’ abuses inflicted on the Bushmen both by white colonialists and Bantu Africans.

Healing dance
The healing power of art and music has been known throughout history. In fact the first healing was music and dance in hunter gatherer cultures freeing what the Kalahari Bushman called healing ?boiling energy?. Each night people of the tribe would dance wildly and go into a trance or meditative state. The people believed that the dance itself freed the person?s own healing energy. Eventually, music and dance were combined with costumes and storytelling and with objects and paintings in the creation of a ritual that we would now call theater or performance art. But in ancient times this ritual was sacred and it was part of the culture?s medicine.

In a very real way the first artist and the first healer were one figure in society, one person, the shaman. This figure became a specialist in going inward to the place of creativity and healing. They became the person who embodied the original rituals that previously were spontaneous and made them intentional. All tribal peoples believed that there was a healing spirit that could be freed from within a person by going into the space of music or art and fully participating in the experience. If you would like to increase your ability to be an artist healer, one way is to increase your understanding of being a contemporary shaman. The path of the feather is our way of doing that. It is a way of seeing the earth as sacred and listening to the voices of ancient spirits and spirit animals.