WildWise are partnering with Cyber Tracker and the Old Way in making a crucial intervention to assist the preservation of the Kalahari Bushman.

Donations are being sought to help this project make an essential difference to the world's oldest continuous indigenous culture

Imagine if you found yourself in a unique position to help save the last fifteen tigers.  Or, if you had the opportunity to preserve the Dead Sea Scrolls, or the Bayeaux Tapestry. What would you do? What choice would you make? You’d probably jump at it, right?

Historically, there have been many crossroads that individuals, communities and nations have stood and decided which paths to take. Consequences then followed. What position might we take now with the benefit of hindsight if we stood at an important historical crossroads?

Well, it so happens we are now at perhaps the very last fork in the road when it comes to helping preserve one of our own species most ancient and important cultural lineages - the Master Trackers of the hunter-gatherer culture of the Ju /‘Hoansi Bushmen.

In March of 2020, WildWise in association with The Old Way and CyberTracker, will be guiding 16 of our alumni from the Call of the Wild programme on a journey deep into the Kalahari to this remote tribe to play our part in helping to preserve this most ancient cultural expression of our human lineage. There are only a paltry 15 active master trackers and hunters left (at the last count in 2018). The situation today is therefore urgent and critical. WildWise are involved in a project that is making a critical intervention, and we would love you to know about it so that you can also contribute something.

The Kalahari San Bushmen of which the Ju/‘Hoansi are one group, are genetically the oldest modern people who once roamed over much of Africa. They have been exploited, persecuted and displaced for many hundreds of years, and experienced enormous hardship.

Our expedition will travel to the part of the desert which is the last place in Africa where they still retain rights to their ancestral lands, where they are still able to legally hunt in the old way ie. with a bow and arrow, and where the community still subsist with some of their traditional lifeways intact. It’s very important to stress to you that this invitation came from the Ju/‘Hoansi Bushmen themselves. We are fully aware of the trap which many Western organisations fall into of thinking they know what’s best for other communities.

Our guides and mentor

Our primary guide is the renowned anthropologist, scientist, author and founder of CyberTracker, Louis Liebenberg, who has been working closely with the Bushmen tribes in the Kalahari since 1985, and, being a true master tracker himself is highly respected and trusted within those communities. He was asked by the elders in 1990 to help them to pass on their cultural practices to the younger generation of San before they are lost forever. It is crucial that a programme of employment creation be initiated in order to ensure that their invaluable tracking expertise is passed on to the younger generation of San by incentivising and motivating them to keep their knowledge and skills alive. Teaming up with Louis, puts us in a very privileged position to have a unique opportunity to help preserve one of the oldest and most significant cultural expressions of our human lineage.

Why we know this will work

Two recent expeditions of exactly this nature have had precisely the benefit to the communities that Louis has been hoping for. That’s why he wants to repeat this format – because he can see its value. It’s become a lifeline for this ancient culture, and we are proud and humbled to be involved. Part of our work is to spread this story so that it’s a more widely understood issue. That’s another reason why we are fundraising. We hope you can help.

Being the longest, continuous in-tact human culture affords a unique chance to learn so much from them, not least their exceptional and astounding ability to read the earth for stories and track and trail animals for days, representing a continuous tradition that goes back more than 100 000 years.  Their tracking skills are a vital source of information about human evolution, and science would suffer a permanent and irreplaceable loss if they vanished. As such, these very last few remaining bow hunters who are master trackers represent a unique part of humanity’s cultural heritage.

As an international community we tend to value ‘things’ more - old buildings, paintings, sculptures etc. If this was a work of art we were trying to preserve, that would probably have happened instantly. Historic buildings for example, have huge sums thrown at them in the name of preserving cultural heritage.  To put this into some kind of perspective, Louis Liebenburg has a comparable budget to achieve his goal of preserving a 100,000 years of human heritage on an equivalent budget that normally pays for just one single museum guard, sitting on one stool, in just one room, in just one museum, in just one capital city….. This is why your help is required. Lots of people giving just a little, can make a huge difference in this situation. 

The money raised goes directly towards supporting these communities and will be a lifeline of employment for them whilst also providing the all-important valuing and encouragement for these ancient and important cultural practices. It also enables these essential trips to take place. Any surplus raised will be spent on resources or capital expenses the village may need after consultation with the elders and Louis Liebenberg.

Our expedition will be journeying to one of the remotest parts of the Kalahari to an isolated village where we will spend our days engaged in a moving and deeply immersive cross-cultural exchange. Living basically we will be playing with the children, crafting necklaces out of ostrich shells, gathering plants, singing, dancing and of course going out in small groups at dawn tracking with the bow hunting Master Trackers themselves. This will have an immeasurable impact on those of us involved, and we expect our participants to become even more committed in their role as ambassadors for the natural world and for indigenous people. Help them achieve this by supporting them to support this project.

We believe it’s time to recognize this specific threshold we are on as a species – the cultural crossroads to decide the fate of the most ancient people on earth. In a way, the choice we need to make can be put simply - do we wish to preserve this culture or not? We think it’s time to sit at the feet of these elders, and to listen to their ancient voices speaking about the old ways that have so much to offer our contemporary, industrialized and disconnected world.

Please help in whatever way you can by giving to the:

WildWise Namibia Fund
Bank account as follows:
Sort code 08-91-03
Account 03332160

Note: If this is something you would like to personally experience and support yourself then it is possible to join a similar trip journeying into the Kalahari with The Old Way, a year-long programme exploring hunter-gatherer life ways which takes place in Devon and the Kalahari.

You can read more about Kalahari San Master Trackers Programme here and read more about Global Vision here