Sunday January 20, 2019

After 20,000 years, world’s oldest people are facing Crisis of Culture

The San's people can be found across Botswana, Angola Namibia and South Africa. Also, known as Basawara, these people lead a very nomadic life which has not changed for over millennia.

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Image source : CNN

The indigenous people of Botswana (South Africa) are only living link to the ancient Africa, there hunter gatherer ways dates back to 20,000 years. They are known as San. DNA test show that they are direct descendants of first Homo sapiens. But now they sit at a crossroads where their culture, traditions and heritage can be lost forever. People sciences have proved that San’s are likely to be the oldest and continues population of human on the continent and on earth.

The San’s people can be found across Botswana, Angola Namibia and South Africa. They are known Basarwa in Botswana region. Basawara people lead a very nomadic life which has not changed for over millennia.

“If this Culture is not preserved, if this Culture is not passed on from one generation to another it is going to die later on. Culture is something that can die and we should understand that culture is dynamic,” says Bihela Sekere, part of the indigenous population who previously worked at the Botswana High Commission in London.

As a child Bihela and his family lived in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The national park in the heart of the desert is the second largest game reserve in the world. It was there that his father taught him the ways of the Basarwa. But in 1997 The Government began to remove Basarwa from reserve, to protect the area and integrate their community into the society.

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Now the Basarwa people live in the resettlement village, trying to pass on age-old tradition.

“Some of the kids, Basarwa kids, are taken to schools (and) they can lose their culture because they are taught other ways of living,” explains Sekere. “To start with the language — if they are taught Setswana and English, it means the language will suffer.”

“Culture is Dynamic it changes, as much as you interact with other cultures, more people and more development coming in you stand a chance to lose your culture. Culture is old but it is what lets you know who you are and a nation without its culture is lost nation.”

But San’s people still have hope that they can preserve their culture. A local man Xontae believes that through tourism their culture can be preserved . He guides people around “The mountain of God’s” Tsodilo Hills, which is also UNESCO world heritage site and a national treasure. The mountain contains 4500 rock painting spread across 400 different location which dates back to Stone Age.

Painting on Tsodilo Hills. Image Source: CNN
Painting on Tsodilo Hills. Image Source: CNN

Sekere said “It will be very good for the Tsodilo Hills to be used as a tourist destination. By using the locals the people who grew up here and know the history behind this hills and paintings that will itself make it unique and special for the people from outside world to come and see what the San’s people have.”

Meanwhile Kuru Art project is an initiative which seeks to revive the art making among the Basarwa once more.

“Gradually as time went on hunting and gathering lifestyle changed. With time obviously the land got divided and the people lost movement their rights like before and so the art provided that. Art project became a way through which they wanted people to understand who they were.” Said Ann Gollifer who is a visual artist in the Botswana who been involved in the project.

Kuru Project. Image Source: CNN
Kuru Art Project. Image Source: CNN

She also said that the work the Basarwa create mainly depicts a hunter-gatherer lifestyle of yesteryear. Using modern mediums to paint ancient traditions, these artworks have sold all over the world.

Hence there is still hope there for the Basarwa people, who want to preserve their culture and heritage.

-by Bhaskar Raghavendran

Bhaskar is a graduate in Journalism and mass communication and is a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter handle: bhaskar_ragha

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No More Schoolgirls Examined For Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya

We are not going to line up all the girls and test them — you can't do that as they can be stigmatized

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FILE - A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. VOA

No schoolgirls in western Kenya are being forced to undergo examinations for female genital mutilation, Kenyan authorities said Tuesday, after a government official sparked outrage by proposing compulsory tests to curb the crime.

George Natembeya, commissioner for Narok County, said on Friday that girls returning to school after the Christmas break were being screened for female genital mutilation (FGM) in order to prosecute their parents and traditional cutters.

Rights groups condemned the move, saying examining the girls — aged between nine and 17 — was demeaning and contravened their right to privacy and dignity.

FGM, Kenya
Maasai girls and a man watch a video on a mobile phone prior to the start of a social event advocating against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. VOA

Kenya’s Anti-FGM Board said they had conducted an investigation in Narok after Natembeya’s statement and found no evidence of girls being tested.

“The Board hereby confirms that no girl has been paraded for FGM screening as per allegations that have been circulating in the last few days,” the semi-autonomous government agency said in a statement.

“The Board recognises and appreciates the role played by different stakeholders in complementing the government’s efforts in the FGM campaigns but we want to reiterate that all interventions must uphold the law.”

FGM, which usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, is prevalent across parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East — and is seen as necessary for social acceptance and increasing a girl’s marriage prospects.

FGM, Kenya
KAMELI, KENYA – AUGUST 12: A Masaai villager displays the traditional blade used to circumcise young girls August 12, 2007 in Kameli, Kenya. VOA

FGM dangers

It is usually performed by traditional cutters, often with unsterilized blades or knives. In some cases, girls can bleed to death or die from infections. It can also cause lifelong painful conditions such as fistula and fatal childbirth complications.

Kenya criminalized FGM in 2011, but the deep-rooted practice persists. According to the United Nations, one in five Kenyan women and girls aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM.

Natembeya said he had announced the compulsory tests to warn communities not to practice FGM on their daughters, but that there was no intention to force all girls to undergo screening.

Rights groups said the policy was rolled back following outrage.

Also Read: The Risk of FGM Hangs Above British Schoolgirls During Holiday Break

“We are not going to line up all the girls and test them — you can’t do that as they can be stigmatized,” he told Reuters.

“What we are doing is that if we get reports from schools that a girl has undergone FGM, it becomes a police case and the girl is taken to hospital and medically examined. Then the parents or caregivers will be arrested and taken to court.” (VOA)