Wildlife, conservation, Africa’s wilderness and biodiversity represent not only the great loves of our lives but also our careers, dreams and aspirations. Yet regardless of these robust green leanings, the fact remains that in our first year on the planet, each of our new-fangled disposable nappies alone created a greater carbon footprint than Hadzabe men Njile, Gongo and Tabo, will in their entire lifetimes
The Hadza are an indigenous ethnic group from North Central Tanzania. They speak with a captivating lilt and a percussive clicking tongue that we love. Though they bear several lifestyle similarities to the San and Khomani “bushman” tribes of southern Africa, there is no evidence that they are in any way related.
There are about one thousand three hundred Hadzabe in Tanzania and of these, some seven hundred, Njile, Gongo and Tabo included, live an entirely traditional life. A purest, hunter-gatherer existence that paleoanthropologists agree has been practised by this tribe and their ancestors, in this very place, for tens of thousands of years. The Hadza land is just fifty kilometres from Olduvai Gorge, what we dramatically refer to as the “Cradle of Mankind”, but it would be reasonable to consider it more their cradle than anyone else’s left on our planet.
We first approached Njile, Gongo and Tabo to ask if they would spend two or three days with us in their ancestral lands, teaching us how to make a Hadza bow and arrows from start to finish. Nic had long been dreaming of learning bush-craft first hand from people that use it in their daily lives, and these three men are rock stars when it comes to this kind of skill.
Our three companions took us to camp in a clearing within Comiphora woodland, up on the plateaux to the North West of Lake Eyasi. The spot was perfect, we had a bubbling stream behind us with crystal water, and all the various plants we would use for the task at hand.
Njile demonstrated how to choose an ideal branch from a Grewia tree for the bow itself. He showed how to roast, skin and straighten the arrows using his teeth as a vice. He expertly perfected the finish by rolling the arrow up and down his calf while running a blade along the shaft. He found feathers from a Magpie Shrike to fletch the arrow and explained how to pull and plat fibres from the branch of a Lanea tree to make the string, though they would have preferred to use tendon from a vanquished zebra.
We’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story, but it was truly an honour to spend this time and absorb a little knowledge from these remarkable Hadzabe men.