Kalahari Survival Guide: Gathering with the women of the village

February 15, 2017

Journal date: April 20 2015

I read in Elizabeth Marshal Thomas’s book and understood that much of the calories of a Ju/wa village came from the long walks and heavy loads borne by the women of the village. I used this knowledge to shape my strategy for my time on Naked and Afraid, focusing most of my time on exploring on foot during the day and gathering the plants that I had learned about.

I spent most of my time with the hunters, men, who were accustomed to guiding and showing things to foreigners. My interactions with the women were much much different. They did not like to make much eye contact, they were shy and quiet, they did not joke around and tease when I messed something up. I suspect they simply don’t have many tourist ask them about what it is they do. They did not shy away from asking for a pinch of tobacco when a smoke break happened however.

After some chat with the headman !Kung and Bertus my translator, I was handed over to two women, their skin tan and unwrinkled unlike the old hunters. They were ageless too me, and when I did ask, they did not know how old they were.

We left out of the village mid morning for some few miles and they carried no weapons, or even edge tools, only their digging sticks. !To’s digging stick was shaped from a discarded spear shaft, and the bottom shaped with two edges for digging and rooting. Hoo Cam (spelling is probably wrong) carried some shaped piece of machinery steel that was heavy but dug deep by benefit of its weight. Both women were not topless in leathers like the pictures from the books showed. They were clothed head to toe in long colorful cloths. They had cloths tied around their hair, only their face and hands were showing. They each were drapped in several capes that they would use like the carrying hides of old to carry back what they found.

They chatted quietly among themselves, and did not pay me much mind, I persisted pointing out and asking what things were and what they were doing, they would give names only when I asked.

 

We discovered :

 

Wild Cucumber

Kalahari cucmber Cucumis kalahariensis

Wild Asparagus

Brandy Bush Berries

Mounds of Manketti nuts

We rooted and collected the sedge tubers (Cyperus fulgens) which are onion like, they are used as bait for the bird traps, and they are also mixed into food such as the manketti nut butter mash.
Bibliography

Gemsbok Bean & Kalahari Truffle – Rare Namibian field guide to the plants used by the bushmen of Namibia and Botswana

The Harmless People – Elizabeth Marshal Thomas An amazing account of Thomas’s teen years spent studying the Ju/wa people

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