The Bushmen of the Kalahari
1st September, 2003
Sandy Gall describes the genocide the Botswanan government is waging to clear the Bushmen from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
On the sideboard in my dining room in Kent there is a small bowl of very fine, reddish sand from the southern-most tip of the Kalahari Desert and a large, gleaming white ostrich egg with a hole drilled in the top. The two objects, so far removed from their place of origin, conjure up for me and my daughter Michaela (who bought the ostrich egg at a tourist camp in Namibia and collected the sand from a dune in a north-west Cape squatter camp called Welkom) vivid if nostalgic memories of the Kalahari and the Bushmen who still live in it. But they symbolise much more: they speak of an ancient civilisation that existed and flourished for thousands of years under the great dome of the African sky.
The Kalahari ‘sandface’, as the Bushmen call it, stretches across seven countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Zambia in the north, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia in the centre, and South Africa in the south. Unlike the Sahara and Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter, it is partly covered with thick bush and trees and criss-crossed by underground rivers that support a wide variety of plant and animal life – including the ostrich. To the Bushmen the ostrich is a legendary bird – it first...
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