Although their lifestyle would be considered a subsistence one, there is much to be learned and to admire in the San Bushmen communities. Anyone who visits a community will be struck by three things. Firstly the way in which they live so completely on the resources of their environment. Secondly, the sense of kinship which ties these small groups of families together, sharing all aspects of their daily lives from the mutual care of children and the elderly to the hunting and gathering which provides the community with food. Thirdly, there is the peace and contentment which is an aspect of this traditional life.
The San Bushmen appear not only to enjoy living their authentic lifestyles but relish sharing it with visitors from a world which is so different to theirs. In recent years the children have received an education nearby, returning to their community as young teenagers with a good command of English. This means that they are able to act as guides, helping the visitor understand about the culture and lives of their own people. The community only allow a handful of visitors at any one time so there is never a feeling of watching the people as exhibits; more as honoured guests.
Beside them, it is hard not to feel large, flabby and over-dressed. Wearing nothing but scanty loincloths, their small sinewy bodies gleam with health and vigour. As you are taken through the bush, learning about how to make fire, hunting with poisoned arrows, harvesting medicinal properties from plants, you are accompanied by scampering smiling children and their patient older siblings. They communicate quietly with each other in a melodic language interspersed with the characteristic clicking sound, common to many Southern African languages. With the help of the guide, you also appreciate the San Bushmen’s delightful sense of humour.
With so little in the way of material possessions, the San’s sense of contentment comes from the life they share. They love just spending time together talking under a tree as well as singing and dancing. From the youngest children who learn many of their skills through play, like tracking their mother’s footprints, to the oldest who are cared for as honoured members of the community, their lives are completely intertwined. Everyone shares in the food provided by the hunters and gatherers as well as the income from their beautifully crafted jewellery made from seed heads, ostrich shells and berry beads. They refuse tips from visitors in favour of purchases from their shop.