“H” is for the ‘Hadzabe’, an African tribe of friendly people who have chosen to retain their traditional lifestyle. On a photography safari with Great Escape Publishing (GEP) last November, I was able to spend the day learning about how they managed to survive in today’s world.
A very early morning wakeup brought our group of photographers to spend the day with a couple of the traditional tribes of the area. First the Hadzabe, the hunters, next the Datogas, the blacksmiths. We had to meet the Hadzabe very early for a special treat, we would go on a hunt with their men!
We left the beautiful Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge at 0545 and drove about 45 minutes to the Hadzabe camp. They still live a nomadic life, so we met them at one of their temporary camps. They had built scattered domed huts out of thin, flexible branches tied together in addition to their ‘rooms’ in a rocky outcrop atop a high hill.
When we arrived, we met the chief and through our interpreter, Joseph, we got an explanation of the basics of their lifestyle. The men brought us up to a large overhang of the rock where they had a fire going. They explained the different types of arrows they used for hunting (some were poisonous).
A couple of them showed us how they started a fire (no, not with a Bic lighter), the old fashioned way of twisting a stick until it gets hot enough to light the tinder. The Hadzabe men used the spark to light their pipes for a good long toke. A few of our troop tried it too- (lighting the fire, not smoking the weed)- but only one succeeded (just barely). It looked a lot harder when our group tried to do it. The Hadzabe made it look so easy.
Similar to the Maasai, they were nomadic. But the Hadzabe were hunters, not herders. The chief also had more than 1 wife. The men spent their days hunting and preparing to hunt. They made their bows and arrows, sharpened their knives, kept the fire going, and smoked a lot of weed while they were at it. They offered some to us, but nobody was brave enough to accept.
After the demonstration, we left with the men on their daily hunt. I followed along for about 20 minutes, up and down the rocky hillsides, surrounded by thorny plants in the hot sun. The hunters were already so far ahead of me I couldn’t see what good it was doing to try to keep up with them. I was rushing- huffing and puffing- and not able to really pay attention to my surroundings and thought better about continuing on.
I turned around and went back to camp. Joseph escorted me and a couple of others who also wanted to return, just to make sure we made it back safely.
Joseph brought us back to camp, introduced us to the women and then returned to the hunt.
Like the Maasai women, the Hadzabe women stay in camp and tend to the household chores. They take care of the children, do whatever needs doing around the camp, and make items for trade. I watched as all the women and children sat together creating beautiful beadwork items (which they later showed our group- just in case anyone wanted to buy).
It took a couple of hours for the men to return to camp- along with our group who stuck it out with them. Sorry to say, they didn’t catch anything. They’ll have to try again later. In preparation for heading out again, they practiced with their bow and arrows and a target stump a couple hundred feet down the slope. We watched as all the men (even the young boys) took their shots at the stump. They even offered to teach us how to do it.
A couple of our group decided to take them up on it and took a couple of shots at the stump. No one managed to hit the target. I tried to pull the string of one of the small boys’ bow. No, I couldn’t pull it even halfway back. We all had fun, the Hadzabe had a good laugh at how awful we were.
Before we left, the tribe got together and gave us a farewell present. They put on a dance show for us and even invited us into the dance. It was a fun ending to our visit.