The Hadzabe Tribe, Part 4 – You can reach out and grab a star

Posted on: June 9th, 2011 by Amy 5 Comments

Preparing for night hunting with the bushmen is a little tense. I can feel that they are apprehensive about me going; I am slow, and I am a woman. We are dressed and have our equipment ready. Now surrounded by the African night (and please let me explain that the African night is so dark you can’t see your hand in front of you–but you can reach out and grab a star) the bushmen are excited. They have never taken anyone night hunting. They want us to see them in true action. We have now spent enough time with them that we are family. The dogs are fired up; the bushmen are seriously focused, not like in the morning. They want either an impala or a baboon. They explain to Momoya in Click- Click how they want us to follow them. “Doc” at this point wants to be back at camp drinking Konyagi. Even Tonto is a little tense. Vance is more concerned about me than the hunting.

Hadzabe Obama is dressed in a baboon skin, tail hanging off the back. He is checking his poison, ensuring it is handy. The poison they use is from the base of an orchid. They extract it, chew it like gum, and then when they boil it, it becomes deadly. The small children are not with us, only eight years old and up. They don’t use flashlights, so we start, and I can’t see a thing! Not a f**** thing. Running, they are splitting up, the young with the wooden arrows in the front, the poison arrow’s in the back. Whistling, signaling, we are running like in a bad horror movie. The dogs keep hitting my calves to keep me in line, like a goat. I can hear action but I can’t see it, focused on not tripping. For two hours we are running and trying to keep up. They stop. One of the bushmen grabs my arm, signaling to stop and be silent. Obama shoots. He hits a monkey, but because we are there, he only injures him. You can hear all the other monkeys and animals run. The place is now tainted. Disgusted with their lack of kills, the bushmen decide that it is time to dump us, so being friendly and polite, they sit us down in the middle of the night and light up bang. At this point I am relieved; I am too old for this kind of shit. Who in their right mind goes night hunting with the bushmen in the middle of Africa?

As the bang is being passed, the night is now calm, and we are talking like it’s a campfire. Hadzabe Obama’s brother asks about Vance — why is he black and can’t understand Africa? Momoya explains that Vance’s ancestors were slaves. This initiated a big discussion in Click-Click. Momoya was slow in explaining that the slaves had been taken to the Caribbean and the States. The bushmen kept asking more questions. How come you still don’t know your tribe? How is that? Why is that? Why is he so yellow? Who is she? Why does a white woman know about Africa and tribes? Then there was a discussion amongst the bushmen only–click-click, clock-clock–but they kept looking at us. We had no idea what was going on. Click-click, clock-clock. They obviously had agreed on something. I was hoping it wasn’t more late night hunting like a bad bushman rave party. Then Obama took off one of his porcupine necklaces and put it around Vance’s neck. He said in Click -Click “Welcome home.” He then placed a necklace on me, and said in Click-Click “Thank you for bringing him home.”

The Hadzabe Tribe, Part 3 – When they get a big kill they will bring meat to surrounding tribes

Posted on: June 7th, 2011 by Amy 1 Comment

We weren’t too successful day hunting. As we were headed back to the bushmen camp, Obama Hadzabe climbed up this huge Balboa tree, cut open a hornbill nest, and grabbed the two babies. Rather than killing them, he just put them under his belt alive and walked back home. When we got there he took the baby birds and gave one to Johan and one to another child, maybe three years old. Obama Hadzabe explained that each time they get baby animals they bring them back to the children to teach them not to be afraid and to help them learn the behavior of the animal. Johan takes the bird and the bird moves its wings; Johan drops it and screams. His father tells him to pick it up. He does, and now he is squeezing it tight to his chest. His father tells him not to kill it.

The Hadzabe are not selfish people, when they get a big kill they will bring meat to surrounding tribes. The Hadzabe, unlike the Datoga and Maasai, don’t deal in cows or money. When they need something, they will trade arrows, fresh kill or local weed. As we were talking, Obama Hadzabe told us that they are being pushed further and further away from their land. He explained that the local population has increased, but the newcomers don’t understand that the trees that they are cutting down for their houses are trees that the bushmen use for medicine for themselves and for animals. He gets animated as he is toking his stone pipe, explaining that the poachers now are too many for them to control. He says that the poachers don’t understand that there is a balance out here between man, animals and land. I ask why they don’t marry outside of their tribe; he just shrugs his shoulders, takes a smoke and says that women from the other tribes are too difficult! Sounds familiar……

The Hadzabe Tribe, Part 2 – The hunter takes the feathers off like you would take fresh thyme off the stem

Posted on: June 5th, 2011 by Amy No Comments

It’s 4:30 in the morning and the Africans are telling us to get dressed and eat breakfast before we go hunting with the bushmen. It is so dark that you can’t see anything and all you can hear is the hyenas. We grab all of our equipment and join the bushmen who are waiting in a circle around the fire, doing a little “wakey bakey.” Then “Hadzabe Obama” calls everyone to order and off we go, down into a riverbed, with twelve dogs and eight bushmen. When the bushmen hunt it is like a ballet. They have five different types of arrows. The front hunters only carry wooden arrows; the middle hunters carry wooden and metal, and the back hunters carry wooden, metal and poison. It seems that in the past they have had some difficulty with measuring poison, so in order to avoid poisoning themselves, only the most skilled are allowed to use it on big game.

We are now running up the hillside — I really should have quit smoking. The hunters are whistling back and forth, dogs running out and circling back. There is a four year old boy, Johan. He has no shoes but he has a small bow and arrow. As we are running he keeps turning around and waving to us to hurry up. Johan is very serious. As we go deeper into the bush he steps on a thorn. Instead of crying he just stops and lifts his foot, gesturing for me to get the thorn out. I take it out and off he runs again until he gets another thorn. This time Vance is behind him and filming, so he doesn’t see the thorn. Johan slaps Vance’s leg to get his attention. Vance takes the thorn out and Johan starts running again.

One of the front hunters signals that he has killed a bird. He retrieves it, and begins a fire so that we can eat it right there. The hunter takes the feathers off like you would take fresh thyme off the stem. Done in seconds. As the bird cooks, Johan is showing us his bow and arrow skills. He comes over to me and invites me to try. I take the bow and arrow, try to shoot, and the arrow just falls off. He takes it back and shoots it to the spot he wanted. He gives me back the bow and arrow and tells me to try it again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. After about the forth time, he gets frustrated with me and tells Momoya (who speaks Click Click), that I am going to go hungry since I can’t use a bow and arrow!

The Hadzabe Tribe – Part 1

Posted on: May 31st, 2011 by Amy 1 Comment

Hadzabe aliases are “bushmen” or “the forgotten people.” When the first Democratic President, Nyerere, came into power in 1961, he told the 126 tribes of Tanzania that they needed a common ground. With this concept, Swahili was born. It is a language that is half Africana and half Arabic, a trading language. Because of the size of Tanzania and the number of tribes, Nyerere sought a common peaceful solution. The President told each tribe, clan, and family that one child would go to school. For most tribes this was a blessing. But for the Hadzabe, a blood-line that is the second oldest in the world, they couldn’t be bothered. The Hadzabe — the bushmen — are hunters and gatherers. That is it. Period. Oh yeah, they like their weed. They are nomadic around Lake Eyasi west and to the south. Where the water goes, they go with it. They are simple but high -minded people. They are free with their hearts and their heads as long as they like you!

I have spent time with the Hadzabe before. They like adventure and they speak with their eyes. There are only two Africans I know that can speak “Click-Click.” When we got there they were excited to meet Vance. Their eyes jumping at his hair, the children pulling on it — they are the same color but different. But they were confused. “What tribe is he from?” They didn’t care that he didn’t speak Swahili because only one out of the 2000 population of Hadzabe speak the national language. Because I had been there before and knew the custom, we went and bought local “bang.” Local bang to the bushmen is like bringing a bottle of wine; it is an offering of understanding.

The Chief of this particular family is young. The Hadzabe’s life expectancy is about 50 years. The Chief was cheerful to see us and I immediately noticed he had an Obama belt buckle on. I pointed and he said he was the “Obama of Hadzabe.” Remember that these people are nomadic. They don’t read or write, no electricity, and hate to have a roof over their head — yet he is proud of Obama!

We where asking questions about the Hadzabe going to school. The bushmen at this point were lighting up the local bang that we brought. The Chief, as he told one of the young bushmen to get a skin for us to sit on, explained that he never understood Nyerere. Why should the bushmen go to school? They know their territory. He then explained that he gets pissed off with all the researchers that come to study the Hadzabe. He toked hard on the bang and said, “We are just people. We are not animals.”

Then the brother of the Chief told a story. Animated and happy, he told the story of how the government got so mad at the bushmen for not going to school that they sent military out with guns in a big vehicle. The military are scared of the bushmen because they are fierce hunters. So the military arrived but they wouldn’t leave their vehicle, guns up front. The bushmen were laughing. Playing with them, they had one of the four year olds point an arrow at them. The military were not happy. The Chief, having known in advance that the military were on their way, conceded and presented one of the clever Hadzabe to go to school. The Chief’s brother continued to toke and tell the story. All of the Hadzabe were laughing. He proceeded to tell us that they took the clever boy to school, put him in clothes and a dorm, hundreds of miles away from his tribe. The dorms all have metal bars on the windows. On the second night, the boy took the bars off the windows, escaped, melted the metal to make arrows and made his way back to his tribe!

And a good time was had by all…

Posted on: May 27th, 2011 by Amy 2 Comments

When we arrived back from our trip to Karatu we stopped in a local place to brush the dust off. We sat down and a jeep pulled up with three men and three women inside. The women each wore black sheath’s over their heads, but you could tell that they were Datogan. A young man got out of the jeep and the place started humming. This man was wielding power; all the local Datogans were standing to attention, waiting in line to pay respect. Our local friend Momoya explained that this man is the big Chief of all of Datoga for all of Tanzania. His name is Chief Galwala. Chief Galwala didn’t seem to be in an exceptionally good mood. Someone explained to us that he was sick. The local Chief Momoya asked to be excused to take Chief Galwala to be tested for malaria at the hospital and asked if we would mind waiting for him to come back. We said no problem.

As we were sitting there, the three women were looking at us and we were looking at them. They were stunning. They were talking amongst themselves and in Datogan asked who we were. Tonto told them about us and then he told us that they were three of the twelve wives of the Chief. The kept moving their sheaths around and we could see that they were bare chested except for rows and rows of jewelry. I was waiting to ask to take photo’s so in the meantime we bought them a round of sodas, and I slowly started to take out my camera. One of the women ran, one of them was posing already, and the third was just trying to keep the other two in line.

In Datoga it is not unusual for a wife to suggest a friend as another wife so that they can stay together and share the housework as well as bare children. We learned that these three had been friends since they were children and that the one that ran was not officially married yet. She has to wait until she is seventeen and if she is unfaithful to the Chief before their marriage then the agreement is off. The wife that was keeping the other two in order had been married the longest, and the one doing the posing had only been married for less than a year. As we were playing with them and they were asking us questions the poser allowed me to start photographing. THIS WAS UNBELEIVABLE! She started to take her sheath off, so that her upper body was naked except for her jewelry, and as I looked at her and her jewelry she started to laugh — she had a cell phone hanging between her breasts and jewelry. She was very proud of the cell phone and placed it up to her mouth so I could take a photo of her talking on her phone. She cannot read or write so I asked how she handles the phone — and of course I should have known better — voice activation! The shy one who originally ran then started feeling less inhibited and she too took off her sheath, but instead of a cell phone she had a mirror, which she immediately picked up and posed looking in the mirror. At this point the stern one jumped into one of the photos with the other two wives but as she jumped she grabbed a beer out of one of the men’s hands! These royal wives were now in full swing and we all were having a ball.

As the evening went on, we found out that Chief Galwala was put in the hospital for malaria and expected be there for several days. This was great news for me since we got to interview the three wives and learned all kinds of cultural secrets. The Chief has invited us to his Boma for a Datogan “cookout” so more to follow after we see them next week!


Posted on: May 26th, 2011 by Amy No Comments

CATCHING UP: Ok, we are back in communications – at least for the time being! We have learned that since last summer – not wanting what happened in Northern Africa to happen in Tanzania — the government has shut down some of the cel towers, making communications almost impossible. To add to the situation we ran into some local logistical “problems.” But since I am trying to keep our log postings chronological, you will have to wait for the details. We are still processing it all ourselves. I am just happy that our team is small and we were able to negotiate our way out. We are safe, tired and clean!

THE WARRIOR, THE LION, AND COURTSHIP: Before we move forward, since I am able to successfully upload photos today, I am sending a photo of the warrior who killed the lion, and a description of some of the tradition that accompanies such an accomplishment: The killer of the lion and the young woman in the photo with him are both Datogan. There are two ways to become famous in Datoaga and Maasia: one is when you kill a lion and the other is when you kill the man that stole your cows. So, if a Datogan kills a Maasai that stole his cows, he is actually more famous than the lion killer. One cow thief kill equals two lions. This is true for both tribes. When a man kills a lion, each of his relatives presents him with gifts of cows and the rest of the tribe showers him with jewelry. This Datogan man was hesitant to let me take his photo but finally agreed when he could see the digital return. He was also expecting a “gift,” since he is a celebrity. The young woman is hoping to marry the celebrity! After cows comes the women… What is interesting is that if a man is interested in a woman, he will lay the stick down in front of her. If a lion killer wants the woman, then he will lay his stick down and the average man has to take his stick back. If a cow thief killer wants the woman, then he lays his stick down and the lion killer has to take his stick back. Here it is all about the size and color of the stick!

The Women See Me Traveling With All Men And Can’t Wait To Get The Conversation Started

Posted on: May 11th, 2011 by Amy 3 Comments

After Vance’s roar of testosterone, we left Crater Rim and went to another guesthouse. I had met Condero, the manager of this guesthouse, many years before and was excited to see her. She is from the Chaga tribe,  who were once the keepers of Kilimanjaro — until it was made a National Park, which pushed the Chaga’s into the city. Now the Chaga’s are known for their business sense. Many are business owners; they are strong, shrewd, and charming. It is only recently that I have seen more women in the hospitality work force. For me, this is gratifying on many levels. For one, there is an automatic bond of empowerment. The women see me traveling with all men and can’t wait to get the conversation started.

We were so tired from having worked all night at Crater Rim that we were flat-out asleep almost immediately after arriving. We woke up around 10 a.m., still dragging our -sses, but hating to waste any time in Tanzania — which really is kind of an oxymoron…

The guesthouse in Karatu is simple, but nice, a local place to stay and very inexpensive. Vance was happy to see a bed and a toilet. I was happy to see my friend. She explained to me that the guesthouse is new and that she is the General Manager — which is big doings! She was proud because the last time I had seen her she was working as a waitress.  She explained that she is trying to focus on hiring women and introduced me to a young woman of the Maasai tribe. Amazing! I have never before met a Maasai woman with a professional job. It is shunned upon here as a cultural standard. The young woman was very excited to meet us. I asked her how it was that she was working. She explained that it had come time in her tribe for her to be circumcised and she refused. Female circumcision is still the custom here. The government has made it illegal, but the tribes follow their own rules. She went on to explain that most of the girls her age want it done because if they do not, they are treated differently. After refusing the circumcision, most of her tribe ignored her, so she left her family and came to Karatu to get a job and be independent. She speaks with pride of the Maasai, but also says, “why must I not enjoy myself too!”

I Am A Man!

Posted on: May 10th, 2011 by Amy 5 Comments

Another feature of the acclimatizing process is that it takes a while to get used to the Malarone, which is what you take to prevent malaria. The Malarone makes your sleep seem as though you are dreaming awake. Wild, restless dreams, plus sleeping in a tent, we are already tired to begin with… Well, Vance has acclimated to Tanzania. He had his first melt-down of epic proportions —  a full force onslaught of pure frustration. We had been running in and out of dung hut boma’s with equipment, sweating, trying to make sure to ask all the right questions and collect the best information possible. We had been chasing a signal for five days and couldn’t get connected, so we decided to drive to Karatu to get a good signal. We agreed to give a friend a ride along with us. The roads are not paved, hot and dusty.

We arrived at Crater Rim, a guest house, and got the computers set up. Things were going ok, but working through the night we were only able to upload the small GoPro videos, so we were a little upset that we could not send some of the great interviews. But, ok, we can accept this. We are below the equator and working hard. However, the friend we had given the ride to was still with us and by 2 a.m. was drunk. He started bothering Vance with a ton of questions. Then he decides to “disrespect” me to Vance. Not good. At 3 a.m. we are waiting for the videos to transfer and they are taking up to an hour or more for one minute of video. Forget sending photos, we are too worn out. At 4 a.m., close to finishing our work, we get the bill.

Now, getting a bill here is always a special dance. The bill is written on a piece of cardboard. First you get the bill, and then there is a ten minute discussion. This is every time — no exceptions. And usually, because we are mzungu’s, there is something extra added to the bill. So, you have to discuss who had what — how many sprites, how many beers. What we did not know was that we were going to be charged for other people in the restaurant. Vance didn’t like this very much, so I was trying to calm him down, which wasn’t going well. That is when he snapped, informing the establishment, “I am a man! Stop playing with me!” Thank god our TZ team was there, but the new saying when someone is frustrated is, “I am a man! Stop playing with me!”

We Were In The Boma Like It Was My Living Room In Key West…

Posted on: May 9th, 2011 by Amy 1 Comment

We spent a few hours with the women of Datoga, just talking while they were preparing maize. We were in the boma like it was my living room in Key West — except it was a cow dung structure with dirt floors and low ceilings. The women are now more comfortable with us, especially after having done some chores with them. As the younger girls come in and out of the boma, the older women keep up the conversation with me. Then they discuss what we talked about amongst themselves, and then the questions come: “How many children do you have?” Now, this question is asked at least 25 times a day. Then, “Are you Christian or Muslim?” Then, as the conversation is now moving beautifully, they start to tell me about their religion. The Datoga only believe in the Sun, and that the moon is a baby of the Sun. Everything revolves around the Sun. They can’t understand why we would follow a religion that is a “Man with a Beard.” I didn’t dare tell them I am agnostic. That would take a month to explain. Then they wanted to know how you tell a man from a woman in the USA, because the women wear pants — so why would you confuse the issue of gender! And finally, my favorite question, “How many shoes do you own?” I started laughing because inevitably it all comes down to women and their shoes!

We were talking about births and the naming of babies. The women explained that when a baby is born, relatives and clan come to meet the baby and then they all name the baby. After the naming, the women make a song that is only for that baby. As they told us about this practice the women began to sing and encouraged us to clap along. Our friend Tonto, who is Datogan but lives in the city, almost started crying because it reminded him of his mother.

After the song was done a man came in and we immediately asked what happened to the boy at Clan Court. He explained to us that it had gone on until the next morning and that many of the men were not happy. If you remember, it was up to 5-7 cows that were to be split between the Clan and the father, along with the bucket of honey. The final ruling was that two cows and the bucket of honey would go to the Clan, and nothing to the father! The Clan told the father, “He is your son. You should have been able to control him, so you will get nothing of the fine.”

We are off to meet the blacksmiths! Stay African!

The Cow Knew I Was a Rookie and Slapped Me in the Face

Posted on: May 6th, 2011 by Amy 3 Comments

We have been very busy today. I milked cows — which I have to say is not my forte. As I was milking with the Datogan women, the cow must have known I was a rookie and slapped me in the face with her tail! The Datogan women thought this was about the funniest thing they had ever seen! Then we went to Clan court. Now, Clan court is a gathering of all the men in the Clan that occurs when there has been what they call a “mistake.” A mistake is when a problem goes outside the family and needs to be mediated by the Clan. All the Clan’s men gather under a tree with tremendous protocal for proceeding. We were told no camera’s and I was the only woman allowed to be there, with permission of the Father of the family. The “mistake” was made by a young boy who is to be circumcised. His father had given him a cow that he was to sell in order to get honey; the honey was to be given to the boy’s father. (Honey in Datoga is very serious business.) But, the boy didn’t get the honey, therefore disrespecting the father and now the father is pissed off — and I mean pissed off! So angry that he took his son to court. Elder after elder in their shuka’s and sticks got up to either defend the boy or stand for the father. The Datogan’s are extremely animated when debating. Now, because the mistake went to the Clan, the Clan decides on the fine for punishment. One elder said the fine should be two cows. Another said the Clan should get two cows and the father should get one. Then the stakes went up to five cows for the Clan and two for the father. In the meantime, the boy is squirming because a single cow costs about $275.00. The fine is getting expensive. The boy looks worried and leaves the tree court. He comes back twenty minutes later with a five gallon bucket of honey.

The father goes crazy. “Now you bring me the honey? How dare you disrespect me!” Another elder stands up and wants to have the meeting stopped and do it tomorrow. Half of the men agree, because yesterday was the market day and they are tired and hung over. The boy gets up in an attempt to publicly apologize for his “mistake” and asks if his father would please take the honey.

The father’s brother then gets up and yells at the boy, “What do you think we are, drunks? You brought the honey for us to make honey beer to drink and forget? Take your honey. You are too late. We are not drunkards; you will pay a fine.” The court is still going on and we don’t know the outcome, but it wasn’t looking promising for the boy. Now we are off to meet with the Tanzanian Tourism Board, who are doing local training, and then back to the Datoga Boma (house).

Video From the Field

We Need Your Support

We hope that you join us in this most important journey. Here's how.