BY LAONE CAMPBELL LEKGANYANE
Why the Kalahari Bushmen?
As a young boy, I always dreamed about telling stories. To me, reading was the mother of all fun. Richard Wright in his book titled “Black Boy” describes with a texture of living in the experience that “Reading was like a drug, a dope. The novels created moods in which I lived for days.”
Since at least 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was enacted, the whole world agreed that everyone has a right to education. I was born from a family where my mother was the only literate person in my household, the only one who knew both how to read and write. At age 8, I had to leave school because my mother was sick and could not fend for herself, so I had to do everything for her. There came a point in my life as a child where I wanted to own a library, a music store and a bottle store. That is where my love for good books, soul music and whiskey came from. During days whenever my environment was futile to upkeep me, I would dig deep into the pages of literature and read carefully on the thoughts of great men.
I read about topics like how in Rwanda, there were mounds of skeletons of the million Africans who were butchered by other Africans in a 100-day orgy of genocide that is still difficult to understand, the Zambia men who wear togas, the South African clutching Zulu, the struggle against apartheid and AIDS in Zimbabwe, and Motswana's diamonds and the great folktales of the Bushmen.
What fascinated me the most about the Bushmen was their traditional customs and beliefs. They were able to tame this harsh dry land because they learned to charm the clouds when the clouds stalled with rain. Moreover, they created sip wells in the desert, by digging a hole, filling it with soft grass, then using a reed to suck water into the hole, and send it bubbling up the reed to fill an ostrich egg. I have also read about their trance dancing, where trances are induced by a deliberate breathing technique, with a clear physiological explanation. During the nighttime, the Bushmen sit around the campfire at night, and tell folklores while the women, children and old people would sit around and clap. At the same time, some of the younger men would dance around the circle in an energetic, rhythmic dance.
It is from reading about the San, or the Bushmen, that I desire to march through Africa to hear her musicians and poets, to see her dancers, her clothes and the varied ancient games she plays. I would strive to hear how the Africans laugh (the funny stories they tell, the richness of expression in the languages they speak), experience the taste and variety of the food they eat, and acquire the handicrafts they produce with their hands, with reeds and beads and bits of wood and animal skins.
Ever since I was a child, a tiny precious child of Kalamare, I have wished to move out of the narrow limits in which, like all other children of my age, I was kept. I craved to go beyond the hills and dusty, rocky roads of Kalamare to follow the road set out for the unknown.
Like the Missionary David Livingstone, I dream about plunging deep into the interior of the dark Africa. Where do I wish to go? I want to chat with the liberal minds of the Kalahari Bushmen while they share a puff of a green leaf and converse on the whereabouts of the lost city of Kalahari. I wish to know about the beauty of the Makgadikgadi pans, the underground spectacle of the Gchwihaba caves, to see the vast plains of the kgalagadi, and to see the waterways of the Okavango Delta from the sky. I want to roll down on the Khawa sand dunes before dancing to the polka sounds with the soil coloured people of the Kalahari. I want to visit Namibia and marvel at the majesty of the deserts, the sand dunes, the Skeleton Coast and the lions of the desert. If the season is right, I would cross into the great expanses of the Northern Cape to see the dry land known to the Khoisan as the Karoo. There, I'd see the miracle of the festival of colours, when the baked soil gives birth to a multitude of flowers. The early rains give Life to seeds that are unseen but have not died.
Learning about the Bushmen made me a curious little travelholic. Maybe one day, while traveling this tarred road ends filled with remarkable experiences that lie in wait for us, a moment would hatch in time's womb, and I would make an attempt to photograph the sound of the bushmen during a campfire.
If a picture could be heard, you would get the rhythmic sound of their hands clapping to their song and that signature ululation that sometimes never comes to an end. I mean, what will it mean when our music is unwritten, when our music doesn’t give us a language we need to express who we are? I believe that in this world, we all have music as a common denominator, where we all can relate, because music is part of us. With each beat that is played, it touches our souls and makes them dance. It is the lifeblood and we are all donors. I am a blue, black, and white flag citizen, and I want to share my Botswana with the rest of the world!
They say to travel is to live, in the road I trust!