the bush in Bushmanland

a Herero woman

"traditional" San women

around my neighborhood

those Western ways

Now, who's crazy?


TSUMKWE............Hardly anyone ever visited Bushmanland, where the San people lived.  Part of the reason was the San had accepted the Western lifestyle.  It wasn't easy to find the vanishing traditions of their culture.  So, only die-hards like me had to come to Bushmanland.  But, I'd wanted to see this ever since seeing the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy".  And, I was going to do it!

About 100 kilometers from Tsumkwe, we picked up a hitchhiker - a Herrero woman. The first thing that Chris said to me was, "Get your camera out. She'll let you take her picture in exchange for a ride." Of course, he was right. It was a stroke of luck to pick up this woman. She said that she would take us to meet some San who kept to their traditional ways. The next day's plans were all set -- in Herero. We really hand't planned to go to Tsumkwe, but under the circumstances, flexibility sounded like a great idea.

I had been impressed with the towns we passed through as we crossed Namibia. They were so modern and clean. BUt, that opinion was tarnished when we entered Tsumkwe. It looked big on the map but it was barely an intersectoin. There was a shop or two, a disco, a gas station, a clinic, police headquarters, and a lodge. We went to the lodge directly and - fortunately - they were filled up. They wouldn't even let us pitch a tent!

More Herero conversation.

The hitchhiker said we could stay at her place. It was a cluster of about a dozen thatched huts with women all wearing traditional Herero clothes. However, neither Chris nor the hitchhiker really thought I would want to stay there. He dropped the woman off and strated to search elsewhere. I quickly let him know -- in no uncertain terms -- that was where I wanted to camp. The Herero women laughed when they learned I really wanted to stay with them, but we were shown a place to set up camp. The evening was spent,under teh stars and around the fire. After a meal shared with our new neighbors, and a great deal of discussion among four Herero women, I was told a few Namibian folk tales.

Something happened overnight -- only Allah know what -- but my Herero hostess didn't know where to find the traditional San people even though she did the day before. She took us to a few places on the outskirts of Tsumkwe where some San lived in squalor -- but 21st century squalor. Nobody was willing to dress in traditional clothing (if they owned any). In a remote village, we did find some people who, for a fee, said they would change clothes in order to be photographed. I got the pictures I wanted but it was not a comfortable experience.

In the afternoon Chris took me to this little man in Tsumkwe whom we'd seen earlier. Glao Goma said he'd pose for me. As it turned out, this charming little man changed my whole Bushman experience. He was friendly, warm, ready to pose, and the star of "The Gods Must Be Crazy!" He talked of how he was selected and his travels. Originally there was a San from Botswana chosen for the part. But, after two days of filming, he disapperaed back into the bush. So, after a search was made in Tusmkwe, he was brought to South Africa (where he couldn't escape) for filming, and the rest was history. THe producers built Glao a house, a humble little home but certainly one of the nicest in Tsumkwe, and took him on a world premiere tour which included Hong Kong, Beijing and Japan.

Copyright 2000 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.