The Hadzabes

The Hadzabe grow no food, raise no livestock, and live without rules or calendars. They are living a hunter-gatherer existence that is little changed from 10,000 years ago. The key possessions every Hadzabe man are a bow, some arrows, a knife, and a pipe, a cooking pot, a water container and an axe.

The string on their lethal bows is made from giraffe or impalas tendons and the arrows are smeared with poison made from boiled sap of the desert rose – powerful enough to bring down a giraffe, but not full-grown elephant. They use Commiphora tree to start fire and Commiphora leaves provides a mosquito-repelling sap, while juice squeezed out of the Sansaveria tree provides a cure for snake bites and aloe is used to heal cuts. Roots provide medicines and the baobab fruits as a source of drink.

Hadzabe women chiefly gather berries and baobab fruit and dig edible tubers. Men collect honey and hunt. Nighttime baboon stalking is a group affair although hunting is a solo pursuit. Hadzabe will eat almost anything they can kill, sometimes, rather than drag a large animal back to camp, the camp moves to the carcass.

Hadzabe live in camps, at night they sleep whenever they want. Dawn and dusk are the prime hunting times; otherwise, the men often hang out in camp, straightening arrow shafts, whittling bows, making bowstrings out of the ligaments of giraffes or impalas, hammering nails into arrowheads. They trade honey for the nails and for colorful plastic and glass beads.

There are no wedding ceremonies. A couple that sleeps at the same fire for a while may eventually refer to themselves as married. Gender roles are distinct, but for women there is none of the forced subservience knit into many other cultures. A significant number of Hadzabe women who marry out of the group soon return, unwilling to accept bullying treatment.