Monday, August 1, 2016

!Kung of the Kalahari Desert

ENVIRONMENT


Environment: 
The land is mostly covered with brush and grassy hills.
Geographical Location: Kalahari Desert,  Botswana, Africa
Climactic Description: the land receives about 8 inches of rain per year.  Temperatures vary from 10-115*F.  Winters are freezing and summers are burning hot.
Population Setting: rural
Flora:
monongo nuts, hoodia cacti, Devil’s claw(found only in the Kalahari desert, used for tea and its powerful medicinal properties), grass, cacti
Fauna:
frogs, giraffes, flamingos, vultures, rhinos, wild dogs, elephants
Environmental Stresses: 8 months out of the year there are no forms of precipitation whatsoever.

*sidenote*   These people go by several names, but their most popular names are San or Bushmen.  In this post I will be referring to them as !Kung or Bushmen, as that is what they call themselves.  Some say that the name San was given to them by their African neighbors, and is a derogatory word.  Even more people say that Bushman is a derogatory word, but that seems to be a myth.

CLIMACTIC ADAPTATIONS


Water is hard to come by, so oftentimes the !Kung find water by scraping or squeezing  roots.  In this picture, they are  using the root water to bathe their children.
Cultural adaptations:
In order to deal with the scarcity of water, the Bushmen live in groups of 20-60 people.  They establish temporary homes, and then move whenever the village water source dries up. Their entire lifestyle is built around the concept that their homes are temporary, and they must be able to pack up their belongings and move at any given time.
Another way they deal with the extremities of their environment is by looking towards other group members for physical and moral support.  Sharing is an important part of their culture, and working as a team is an essential part of coping with their surroundings.  To encourage unity, they discuss all problems democratically, as a group.  Violence and harsh words are avoided, as keeping peace and tem unity is an important part of everyday living.
Lately, the !Kung have become more influenced by first world countries, and they are now learning how to find water by drawing it from deep bore holes.  Learning how to use technology in this way helps them to master their environment, and make more permanent housing. 
Physical adaptations: 
As a result of their harsh living conditions, they have adapted by becoming physically smaller and thinner than most people.   This helps them survive in surroundings where food and water are hard to come by.  Nowadays, they aren’t malnourished.  But, that doesn’t mean that food and water aren’t hard to find.  The average stature of a !Kung person is 5’3, 110lbs.
The !Kung live longer lives than the average person.  They may not eat much, but they do live off the land, so learning the health benefits and medicinal properties of plants has become a part of their culture.  They are very aware of which foods are healthiest for the body, and this knowledge has caused them to live longer lives.

LANGUAGE

Bushmen sitting around a campfire and talking.

A song to teach children how to count to ten:  

 

Language:  The !Kung don't all live together, they live in groups of 20-60.  So, each group of !Kung speaks a slightly different click language, some even speak multiple click languages.  These click languages are part of the South African Khoisan language, and some of these click languages are considered endangered. 




GENDER ROLES

Boys fulfilling the traditional role of hunting.
Are there only two specific genders in your 
culture?
Yes, there are men and women.
Identify general gender roles:
Men hunt large animals, and oftentimes leave the village for days at a time in pursuit of game.  Meat is a very valuable to them, so men are valued, and have high social statuses due to their ability to catch game.
While the men are away hunting, women are away looking for plants and small game to gather.  Generally, women supervise the young children, or take them with them hunting for food.  Women also cook the food.  They are highly valued members of society, as about 80% of the diet comes from plants and small game.
How strictly defined are these roles?
These roles are very loosely defined.  The nature of these people is very egalitarian, and this carriew over into their gender roles.  Sometimes men perform women’s roles or women perform men’s roles with no negative repercussions.
Are there negative repercussions (social/ financial/ physical) for one gender performing the roles of another?
Nope.
How do the young of this culture learn their appropriate gender roles?
The young men prepare to be men by going hunting with the older men.  The young girls prepare to become women by learning to gather and cook with the older women.  A boy becomes a man the moment he kills a large game.  After doing this, he is then eligible to marry and have a family.  A girl is considered a woman the moment she bears her first child.
Discuss the relationship between biology and gender roles:
Well, anatomically, men have more muscles.  The !Kung seem to incorporate this into their gender roles, in that the men are given the more physically intensive role in society; they hunt and kill large animals, which can be physically exhausting.
“The Blessed Curse”:
The protagonist of the story would probably fit into this culture very easily, only because there seems to be a very equal amount of respect for both men and women in this civilization.  At birth, they may be some arguments with the father, only because men volunteer to be fathers, they aren't forced.  By that I mean, single women have several partners, and when they get pregnant one of their partners volunteers to be the husband and father.  Once the father sees that the baby is not normal, he may un-volunteer to be the dad.  As a child, little boys and girls are raised relatively the same, so that shouldn't be a problem; but as a pre-teen major problems might arise.  At age ten or eleven, children prepare for marriage.   So, it'd be interesting to see whether the intersex child gets bombarded by suitors like a girl, or begins to look for a spouse like a boy.  I assume the child would get married, because everybody gets married.  Plus, same-sex marriages are allowed for special circumstances (ex. an old woman wants to pass on her family name, so she marries a young woman.  The relationship stays strictly platonic, but the old woman is required to dress and act like a man/ husband, while the bride tries to get pregnant.  Then, the bride's children can pass on the name of the older woman husband, and when the older woman husband dies, the wife may get re-married.).  So, overall I assume that an intersex child could fit into this society very easily, although there may be a few bumps along the road.

SUBSISTENCE


Bushman woman gathering berries.

 Identify and describe the traditional subsistence pattern of your culture.  If there is evidence that your culture is perhaps transitioning into a different subsistence pattern, include that in your discussion.
The traditional subsistence pattern is hunting and gathering.  Nowadays, many of the !Kung raise cattle and goats or work without pay on farms. 
Describe the main food items that make up your culture’s diet.  Are these items available year round or are they seasonal?
A third of their diet comes from monongo nuts, which are available April through November.  The majority of the rest of their diet comes from a variety of other nuts, roots, melons and berries available at different times throughout the year.  When one plant is out of season, another is in season, so the availability of roots, berries, nuts and melons is rather stable.  Meat is rare but constantly sought after.
Is there a division of labor in your culture’s subsistence pattern?  How is the work divided based upon age, sex, and/or social class?
The women gather about 70% of the food, and the men gather the rest.  Women find plants and small game, while men hunt large game.  The elderly and children refrain from work.
Can you describe the general nutritional health of your culture?  Do they receive adequate nutritional intake or are they lacking in any way? 
They are slim, but very well nourished.
Is your culture dependent upon any food item that is rare or difficult to obtain?
They depend highly on monongo nuts, which are specific to the area in which they live.  All meat is difficult to obtain because of the extreme temperatures which they live in.
Economic Systems:
Does your culture produce any surplus in food items?  Why or why not?
The culture does not produce a surplus of food.  The community could produce a surplus of gathered crops if they wanted to, but accumulation of material is undesired because of their constant moving.

ECONOMIC SYSTEM

Bushman woman making a necklace from ostrich eggs.

Does your culture exhibit specialization of labor?  Describe.
Men hunt while women and children cook and gather.
Does your culture practice any form of redistribution of goods or wealth?  Describe.
Yes, sharing resources and giving gifts are common.  Giving gifts is an important part of networking.  They give gifts to strengthen bonds with old friends, and to remind the gift receiver that they'll be there for them when times are rough.  If the weather or environmental conditions become hazardous, people often live with distant friends and relatives who they give gifts to.  Giving presents is an important part of maintaining and strengthening relationships, and these relationships are often needed to survive  harsh conditions.
Does your culture use some type of currency?  Describe.
No, accumulation of wealth is not necessary or practical because they are constantly moving their village. 
Does your culture engage in trade, either directly or through the use of currency?  What have been the benefits and the negative effects of trade on your culture?
They do not trade, rather, they give gifts.  In a way, this is like trade, because it is highly dependent upon reciprocity.  Traditionally, they have always lived far away from other cultures, so trade from other civilizations never had much impact on them.

MARRIAGE


!Kung men with their babies.

Describe the marriage pattern of your culture (monogamous, polygynous, etc.).  Do they practice any form of cousin marriage?  If so, explain.
Generally, marriages are monogamous, simply because romantic jealousy is a big issue in their society.  About 5% of men have multiple wives, and about 2% of women have multiple husbands.  First cousin marriages are not allowed.
How are marriage partners determined?
First marriages are assigned by parents.  Subsequent marriages are determined by the individuals.  Multiple marriages are common. 
Does you culture practice any type(s) of economic exchange for the marriage?  Describe.  Remember that they may practice more than one form.  What does this say about the value of males and females as marriage partners in your culture?  Is one more valued than the other?
Yes, for a first marriage, the parents of the bride and groom exchange gifts.  This says nothing about the value of men and women.  However, the period after the gift giving, shows the lengths men must go to in order to impress the bride and her family.  After the gift exchange, the husband-to-be moves in with the family of the bride-to-be.  He  then spends 8-10 years hunting for the family of his potential bride.  He must prove himself as a hunter, and as a man who does not have a reputation as a fighter.  If he does not prove himself, the marriage may be cancelled at any time.  If he does prove himself, and he has children with his wife, he may take his bride and move back in with his family.
Does your culture have any endogamy or exogamy rules or any restrictions such as incest taboos?  Describe.
It’s taboo for !Kung brides to marry their: father; son; brother; uncle; nephew; first-cousin; second-cousin; or a boy with their father or brothers’ last names.  Grooms simply are forbidden from marrying a girl with their sister or mother’s last name.
Describe the residence patterns practiced by your culture.
The husband to-be lives with the bride’s family for 8-10 years.  Then, the bride and her husband live with the husband’s family after their marriage is solidified and they have several children.
What is the attitude toward homosexual relationships in your culture?
Homosexual relationships seem to be non-existent.  However, same-sex experimentation is common before a husband and wife get married. 

KINSHIP

Elder woman with child.
What kind of descent pattern does your culture practice?  What does this say about the kin relationships your culture feels are most important?  Do they ignore the other descent lines or are they just less emphasized?
The !Kung focus on the nuclear family, and follow the patriarchal line.  They do recognize matrilineal descent, although it is less emphasized.
Using kinship terms, which individual possesses the most authority within the family in your culture?
The matriarch has the most authority within family culture.  The elders are given any authority within the community, and there are more female elders than male, so older women have the majority of power within the community.
Do the inheritance patterns match the descent patterns, i.e., are goods and property passed on via descent lines or by some other rules of inheritance?
Goods and property are usually collected by the men, and given to the women.  Generally, the women carry and maintain property.
Review the Eskimo (Inuit), Hawaiian and Iroquois kinship systems in your textbook, noticing the unique naming patterns exhibited in each and what those patterns indicate.  Describe and explain any naming patterns in your culture’s kinship system.
The !Kung name according to the patriarchal line.  Their kinship pattern is much like that of the Eskimo's, empasizing the nuclear family.

SOCIAL ORGANIZATION

One of the Bushmen shaman, who is said to be able to heal people.
Is your culture stratified in any way or is it generally egalitarian? 
The culture is known for being extremely egalitarian.  There are elders with political authority, but their power is limited.
If it is egalitarian, does that mean that all individuals within the population have equal status and social power?  Explain.
The !Kung have a near perfect egalitarian community, yet there are still a couple minor inequalities.  For instance, the “healers” are the only men in the community with multiple wives.  All the other men want multiple wives, but their current wives tend to drive away potential other wives.  Perhaps the wives of healers are less affected by romantic jealousy because they’re dating men of higher social statues.  Another (debatable) example of inequality is the supposed gender inequality.  Some say that the men are seen as slightly more important than the women, yet this is debatable because, “the !Kung have been regarded as a society exhibiting one of the world's highest levels of sexual egalitarianism.  We have seen how !Kung women behave as actors on the stage of their society's history and not just as spectators.  The aging process enhances women's power instead of weakening it” (Lee, n.d.)  So overall, members of the community are generally regarded as equals.  Although, it is inferred that healers have some extra social power or status, and in some speculate as to whether the women are considered equals or near-equals.

POLITICAL ORGANIZATION

A Bushman chief in 2006, sitting in a modern day courtroom.

Describe the political structure of your culture.  How does the culture determine who has political power, i.e., how is political power determined or measured?
Officially, political control is in the hand of the elders/ chiefs, although they have very limited power.  For women, respect and authority is signified by how high a woman wears her apron.  Each year, the women wear their aprons lower and lower on their waist to signify that they gain more respect as they grow older.  
Explain how political power is transferred from one person to another.
Age determines political power, as people between 45 and 65 are considered elders/chiefs.
Who determines the laws of your culture?  How is punishment delivered for breaking laws?
For the most part, they govern themselves by participating in large group discussions.  Formally, however, the elders have control over the laws of the culture.  The most common form of punishment is public ridicule.  In addition, punishments can include forced separation or execution.  It is also acceptable to solve disputes through murder.  “Although !Kung society is by no means completely non-violent, people manage to resolve virtually all their disputes through personal dialogue and remonstration, without recourse to a tribal police or vigilante justice. Neither do male elders have definitive authority, particularly over women, although they strive to impose their decisions in resolving disputes” (“Culture Out of Africa”, n.d.)

ROLE OF VIOLENCE


Bushman's bow and arrow.
Describe at least two ways that violence is presented in your culture.  What are the affects of violence in this culture?  Are these affects viewed positively or negatively by this culture?
Nearly all violence stems from romantic jealousy.  For instance, if a woman has an affair during the day, and her husband learns of it that evening, she can expect her lover to be dead by morning.  This same situation holds true even when the genders roles are reversed.  The !Kung have a reputation for being a highly jealous people.  One affect of this is that girls are married as children, in order to avoid the violent repercussions of affairs, “If a girl was married before she became sexually active, then peace could be assured in the community” (“Marriage and Reproduction…”, 1996).     Interestingly enough, while parents seem to be concerned about the consequences of their children having affairs, or romantic problems, most members of the community end up having multiple affairs anyways, “…although extramarital sex is 'forbidden' by the male elders… There is at least begrudging respect for a woman's determination to love whom she will, with some intermittent male violence, often mediated by the group” (“Culture Out of Africa”, n.d.). 
Another, although less prominent, cause of violence is non sexually-based arguments.  Technically, there are no official laws, so anybody could get revenge or justice on their own terms.

RELIGION


The Bushmen are doing a ritual healing dance that involves the men getting into a trance-like state.

Does your culture practice a particular religion that you can identify?  Does it have a name?  Is it related at all to any other larger branch of religion?
Their religion is Traditional Nature Animism.  “They believe celestial bodies (sun, moon, morning star, and the southern cross) are symbols of divinity.  They believe the praying mantis is a divine messenger and when one is seen, diviners try to determine the current message.  Other animals also have spiritual significance for them.  They also believe that dancing near a sacred fire will give them the power to heal” (Jenkins, 2006).  There are slight similarities to Christianity. 
Is the religion monotheistic, polytheistic or does it not have a particular deity as its focus of worship?  If possible identify the name or the deity (if it is monotheistic) or several of the primary deities (if it is polytheistic).
They are polytheistic.  Goaxa is the main god, and according to their religion, he created a lesser god, and then he created a wife for himself and a wife for the lesser god.    The !Kung also view animals and celestial bodies as divine beings.  Some animals or celestial bodies are more divine than others.
Does their religion have an origin story of how their culture/people came to be?  Summarize the story.
They don’t have an origin story for their religion, but they have another important origin story for the Tsodilo Hills:
There once was a man with two wives, who loved one wife more than the other.  This caused a fight, and the unloved wife hit him over the head, causing a big wound.  Then she ran off into the desert. 
Seeing all of this, the god Gaoxa decided to put an end to their fighting by turning them into stones.  The man was turned into a large mountain; the loved wife and her kids became a cluster of mountains, and the unloved wife became a small hill that stands alone.  Rumor has it that the god Goaxa himself used to live among these mountains, which they call the Tsodilo Hills.
Identify some of the important rituals and practices that are unique and define this particular religion.
The praying mantis is seen as an important ficure in their religion; they see praying mantis’ as messengers of Goaxa.
How important is this religion and its practice to your culture?  Would it function without it?
For the !Kung people, religion is dance, and dance is connected to every form of life.  However, I believe they could still get along and have dances without religion.  They live in small communities of 10-30 people, so I think it’s inevitable that they would bond, party and dance together.
Art: For each of the following broad art forms, briefly describe (a) how it is most commonly expressed in your culture and (b) what function of benefit it provides to your culture.  If your culture does not express a particular type of art form, say so, but then speculate as to why they don’t.

ART


Rock art.  Generally, paint is made from charcoal, Eland blood, manganese oxide, bird droppings, and/or kaolin.

 Artwork:  This can include any type of material artistic expression, including paintings, drawings, ceramics, weaving, body art, etc.
They partake in cave paintings, music, dance and storytelling.  Dance, music and storytelling involve literally every aspect of life.  Cave paintings are about the hunt and animals.
Music:  Includes any type of musical expression, instrumental, vocal or otherwise.
Generally, music is combined with dancing.  Their, “…survival tools, bows and digging sticks, are used as musical instruments. The music is a haunting weave of rhythms, which seems to resonate with unworldly longing” (Brett, n.d.).
Performance:  This includes any type of physical expression, such as dance, theater, etc.
They have dances often, and they dance about everything, “They danced all aspects of the being of the eland, the herd, the cows, love-making, growing old & being challenged by younger bulls.  Some dances also may lead to healing where alien spirits can be drawn out” (Brett, n.d.).  One of their most important dances is the dancing to heal the sick.  This particular music and dance involves people getting into trance-like states.  Another important dance in the community is the eland dance, which celebrates the supernatural activity of a girl getting her fist period.  This dance spans multiple days and nights and involves only the women in the community.
Religions Art:  This can include art expression included in any of the above categories, but if applicable, highlight the way art is used to enhance religious expression in your culture.
Their rock paintings are very religious in nature.  One reason for this is that they paint of animals, which are extremely revered in their culture.  Another reason is that generally these paintings are made by shamans immediately following a ritual trance healing dance. 
Other:  Does your culture practice a form of artwork that does not fit into the categories above?

CONCLUSION


Protesters picketing outside the National History Museum's De Beersdiamond exhibition.  Apparently Bushmen people (including the Bushman chief in the bottom picture) were angry over the National History Museum's failure to mention that the diamond company forcibly removed Bushmen off their homeland in order to mine their diamonds.

Has your culture been affected by other cultures?  Make sure you identify both the positive and the negative impacts.
Apparently, in 1997 international mining companies found diamonds underneath Bushman land, so they forceably removed 1200 of them from their native land, and forced them onto a reserve.  This entire process was illegal, and violated several major laws of the Botswana constitution, but the government did nothing to help.  Many of them were tortured in the process.  Within the following years, the last of the Bushman were expelled from their homelands and also moved onto reserves.  In the reserves, the Bushmen became exposed to many outside forces and problems, like AIDS.  In 2002, “The Bushmen decided to fight back… with support from local and international human rights organizations. On behalf of all their expelled kinfolk, 243 Bushmen and women launched a lawsuit before three judges in Botswana's High Court asserting their rights under the constitution to return to their ancestral home” (Bridgland, 2005).  The lawsuit was dragged out for several years.  In 2006, the Bushmen were legally allowed back on their land.  However, there were still arguments with the government and mining companies.  They couldn't hunt on their own land and the government built a tourist lodge on their property.  Right now, the Bushmen are being pressured by their government into becoming a more "modern" society and leaving behind old hunter gatherer ways.  One reason for this is that the Boswaran government view the !Kung people as a danger to animals and the environment.  Although legally not allowed to hunt, some still continue their old traditions and way of life.  The rest work as slave laborers on farms of neighboring civilizations, make permanent homes where they ranch cattle and goats, or make a living displaying their traditional ways for tourists.  
On the positive side, many international organizations have been fighting on behalf of the !Kung, to help them reclaim legal rights and help them become a more independent people.  The organization called Survival has been helping them battle the diamond companies.  The African organization Kuru, and other organizations have been helping them to sell their artwork, crafts, and music worldwide, to achieve some level of independence and self- sustainability.
Survival:  http://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes
Kuru:  http://www.kuru.co.bw/art_project.html
Other Music Initiative:  http://www.bushmanmusic.org/
Would you consider your culture to be healthy and thriving or is it danger of changing to the point of losing its cultural identity?  Explain.
The culture is already beginning to lose its identity.  For instance, most of the !Kung no longer hunt and gather, they either farm goats and cattle or work on farms for food.  Some also sell fair trade jewelry or rely on tourism to make a living.  
What role does your culture play in the modern world?  Does it have a strong influence or a weak one?They have an extremely weak influence.  They are oftentimes bullied or treated unfairly by the Botswana government, diamond miners, and other, large cultures.  They have had problems with the government in court and off the record, “Botswana president Festus Mogae has little sympathy with the Bushmen. He uses a derogatory Tswana word, Basarwa, meaning ‘people with no cattle’… to describe the hunter-gatherers. ‘How can we have Stone Age creatures in an age of computers?’ he asked…” (“Botswana Court Rules…”, n.d.)  The diamond miners have been invading their land, especially De Beers, “About six mining companies, including the biggest diamond producer De Beers, have exploration rights in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve” (“Botswana Court Rules…”, n.d.).  !Kung oftentimes reach out for help to local and international humanitarian organizations, “Last month Survival and pioneering American feminist Gloria Steinem picketed the opening of De Beers's first US store in New York” (“UK:Buhsmen Slam...”, n.d.).



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Images


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" The Kalahari Bushmen are home again | John Simpson | Comment is free | The
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