Return of the San Bushmen (continued)
[Edit: Due to its length, this post has been modified and broken into two parts - see previous post for the first half.]
Yep, that's Julie Christie outside London's Museum of Natural History back in 2005, taking a stand with other citizens. For what? For humanity taking responsibility for the history of our species and the welfare of its oldest people. The Museum is part of the story because its "Diamonds" exposition (sponsored by De Beers, of course) makes no mention of the forced expulsion of the Bushmen from the Kalahari. Christie said
, "I am shocked that the Natural History Museum can ignore the plight of the Bushmen while taking money from De Beers, the very company exploring their land for diamonds. Boycott De Beers! Or have the destruction of the Bushmen on your conscience."
Back to our story - once again from Sello Motseta:Botswana president tries to bargain with Bushmen
(Mail & Guardian)
19 January 2007Botswana President Festus Mogae has met with a small number of Bushmen in an effort to persuade them not to return to their life of hunting and gathering in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Only about 100 of the 2 000 Bushmen in New Xade attended Thursday's meeting with the president although state media had encouraged them not to return to the game reserve -- as a court had ruled they had the right to do -- until after they had heard the president's speech...
Any guesses as to the content of the speech? Did you guess that Mogae - having failed to deter the San by: violent expulsion; destroyed water supplies; the most lengthy and expensive court battle in Botswana's history; and threats veiled and otherwise - now resorted to bribing the San (or Basarwa) with empty promises? If so, then you guessed right.
But it looks like this tactic also failed.Expelled Bushmen Return Home
by Craig Timberg (Washington Post Foreign Service)
January 21, 2007. . . "Those who wish to go into the park can do so,"
[Mogae's spokesman] Ramsay said.
His comments were the latest sign that Botswana's government is seeking to defuse a standoff that has generated years of bad publicity for a country otherwise admired as a bastion of stability, prosperity and democracy on a troubled continent...
The article also relates lawyer Duma Gideon Boko's comment on the new apparent willingness of the government to negotiate and compromise: "I think they are backing off."
Perhaps because the world is backing away - from Botswana's government?Bushmen start to return to ancestral lands
by Katy Guest (The Independent)
21 January 2007. . . The Somalia-born supermodel Iman stood down as the face of De Beers, explaining: "It was clear the Bushmen were being destroyed." Tomorrow sees the UK release of the film Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, to whom the Bushmen appealed for support last September. "Your film shows how badly diamonds hurt," Roy Sesana told him in an open letter.
Last month, the Bushmen won a three-year court case when the High Court declared their eviction from their land "unlawful and unconstitutional". The first group of 40 Bushmen is preparing the way for others to leave the relocation camps and return to their traditional way of life.
Jumanda Gakelebone, one of the group, said: "We are happy to see this after a long time. We are going back home to our ancestral land, and our ancestors will be happy."
Primitive does not equal stupid. The San Bushmen own a different kind of knowledge, no longer in currency since the European colonization of the globe. Industrial and technological knowledge are the source of power in modern civilization, and have first priority inasmuch as they provide decisive political and economic advantages. The knowledge the world's oldest people possesses - of human survival in the natural world - is often viewed as irrelevant in a world dominated by western technological civilization. Yet that judgment badly misses the mark. (See, for example, Hope Grows With Hoodia in the Kalahari
by Robyn Dixon at the LA Times
, or Sampling the Kalahari cactus diet
by the BBC's Tom Mangold.)
Though the Bushmen - call them the San, Basarwa, Ju/wasi or some other name - desire more than anything to live in the land where their hearts dwell, where their ancestors will always be, they do not wish to remain frozen in time. They have learned to augment their lifestyle with domesticated livestock, and some even use trucks to transport water and other necessities. Which changes nothing when Sello Motseta quotes cultural anthropologist Robert Thornton, who says, "But the next step is the political commitment and the actual effort to create the conditions under which that lifestyle is sustainable, and that is lacking. It is our human heritage and [preserving] it shouldn't require more justification than that. It is our genetic ancestry and our cultural ancestry."
For now, I leave you with Tahir Shah's article Hunters and Gatherers
.[Edit: Is it over? Naturally not: Botswana betrays the outcast Bushmen. The government there is not just betraying the indigenous people; it is betraying the promise of a free and democratic future: Democracy under fire in Africa's model pupil Botswana by Moabi Phia.]