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  Field Notes From
Bushmen: Last Stand for Southern Africa’s First People



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View Field Notes
From Writer

Peter Godwin





View Field Notes
From Photographer

Chris Johns



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Dave Hamman (top) and Chris Johns
 

image: stones
In the Land of the Bushmen

Field Notes From Writer
Peter Godwin
When you get out with them in their natural environment, the Bushmen really come alive. Foraging with the women was an extraordinary experience. They were the happiest I saw them when they were out miles away from anywhere gathering nuts and berries and roots. To them being out in the bush is what strolling through the supermarket aisles is to us; they pick out what foods look good to them with amazing speed and efficiency. None of us were quite prepared for just how cold it can get in the middle of the Kalahari Desert at night. During the day the temperature can be up in the 80s, and so you are dressed in tropical gear. Then at night it drops to below freezing, and you’re left shivering in your tent with all your clothes on. I had a bizarre experience while talking to a Bushman storyteller, who was one of the oldest men in his village. I sat down expecting to hear something similar to the Bushman folktales and creation legends I had read before. But as a bunch of people gathered around to listen to him, he began telling an extraordinary litany of stories—98 percent of which were X-rated. The filthiest stories you could imagine. I began to blush to the roots of my hair, and eventually I asked him, Do you have any clean ones? National Geographic is a family magazine! He had to think for some time before coming up with one.


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