The ways of the Bushmen

A bow and arrow are the principal weapons of the Bushman, writes Lieutenant Arnold W Hudson in Trekking the Great Thirstland.  “The tip is always poisoned. I have not been able to find out what the poison consists of, but I believe it comes from a root, caterpillar or grub.  I do know, however, that it is most deadly and fatal, even to big game such as eland and giraffe.  The poison is a slow worker, and an animal lives for several hours after being hit. The Bushman’s practice is to wait for half a day and then follow up the spoor until he finds the dead body of his victim.  The flesh in which the arrow is stuck is cut out and the remainder is quite safely used for food. An arrow is made of hollow reed, fitted with a detachable arrowhead. When not in use, the poisoned point is inverted and kept inside the hollow reed to prevent the owner accidentally scratching himself with it. When game comes into sight it is repositioned and instantly ready for use.”


Bushmen and Hottentots all loved dancing.  In Trekking the Thirstland, Lieutenant Arnold W Hudson states: “They will continue their revels all night. Round and round in circles they go all the time singing a weird chant and if by chance one of them possesses a concertina, their cup of happiness is full.  The old, middle-aged and young, all take part.  Their dress sense differs. The Hottentot women love colour and pride themselves on their choices of gaudy dress, parasols and the like, while the men like to wear a piece of coloured print around hats and waists as a belt. The Bushmen dress more primitively. The man wears brayed skin tied around the middle and passed up between the legs and the woman also wears a brayed skin, but hers is a good deal larger, though tied in the same way.  Both men and women use a brayed hartebeest skin for a blanket, which women utilize as a means of carrying melons, babies and even small children, by throwing it over their shoulders.  The weights they will carry in this way are really extraordinary.”


© Rose’s Roundup, September 2011 (No 211)

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