The San people are one of the world’s oldest tribes, and traditionally hunter-gatherers, known as the first people of South Africa. Today their descendants are a population of around 100,000 people across Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and South Africa.
The San’s tracking skills are renowned, and they have the skills to hunt and survive in the seemingly barren lands of Southern Africa’s deserts. They are easily recognised by the unique clicking sound they make when speaking.
It is the San – also known as the Kalahari bushmen – that were responsible for the cave and rock art found across the region, some of which dates back thousands of years. They used pigments made from minerals, ochre, eggs, and blood to paint their iconic images of hunters and various animal prey.
Today the traditional lifestyle of the San bushmen is restricted to small areas around Botswana’s epic Makgadikgadi Pan, as they’ve lost the ability to cover large ranges by the creation of large national parks and increased land given over to farming and mining.
The Omo Valley in southwest Ethiopia is a fertile region that’s home to the Hamar. They are a pastoral tribe with a culture that places a high value on cattle. During the dry season families move to live with their herds in grazing areas, and survive primarily on milk and blood from the cattle.
They are easily recognized for their body adornment with multitudes of colourful beads, necklaces, and bracelets, and for their distinctive hairstyles, curling their hair with a mixture of ochre and butter.
Controversial practices include ritual flogging of women by their husbands to prove devotion, and the initiation rite of ‘bull jumping’ performed by boys to allow them to marry.
A social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.
Humans are victim to something called confirmation bias: the tendency to interpret facts in a way that confirms what we already believe. So no matter how many facts you throw at your uncle trying to sway his political opinions, there’s a good chance he isn’t going to budge. It’s one of the psychology facts you’ll just have to accept that you can’t change sometimes.
The djembe is one of West Africa’s best known instruments. This goblet-shaped drum is traditionally carved from a single piece of African hardwood and topped with an animal skin as a drumhead. In western understanding, the drum belongs to the membranophone class of instruments in the percussion family.
Some say the name of the djembe came from the Bamana in Mali, who said “Anke dje, anke be” to call their people together, as the saying translates as “everyone gather together.” “Dje” means gather and “be” means everyone, which gave the drum used in these calls to order its name. The Bamanakans’ mythology tells of the original djembe, which was made of the hide of a giraffe-zebra hybrid called the gebraffe. There are at least a dozen stories of the history of the drum told by many master drummers. My master tells these stories and then steps back as even he, doesn’t purport to know the real truth. In history, the Mandinka of Manden became the Malinke of Mali. We often refer to them as the Mandé.
The djembe drum is most likely about 400-800 years old, and was created during the Malian Empire by the Mandé people. It spanned the modern-day countries of Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, northern Burkina Faso, western Niger, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, the Ivory Coast and northern Ghana. The Mali Empire grew out of an area referred to by its contemporary inhabitants as Mande. Mande, named for its inhabitants the Mandinka (initially Manden’ka with “ka” meaning people of), comprised most of present-day northern Guinea and southern Mali. The empire was originally established as a federation of Mandinka tribes called the Manden Kurufa (literally Manden Federation), but it later became an empire ruling millions of people from nearly every ethnic group in West Africa.
It is taught that the Blacksmiths made the first djembes, making each drum custom-fitted to the drummer who would play it. This makes sense as they would be the people to cut the tree. The making of the drum was spiritual, and the blacksmith was obliged to make offerings to the spirits of the trees he cut down. With the lengue tree, a sacrifice would be made to ask for permission to cut the tree for a djembe. Once the blacksmith finished the djembe, it was delivered to the drummer who commissioned it, a member of the jeli caste. The jeli are musicians, who are responsible for the oral history of their people. This remains true to today.