The Bushmen

The Bushmen are considered the ‘first people’ of Africa. These interesting little people lived in close harmony with nature, never taking more than they needed of the vast resources given to them by ‘the gods’. The Bushmen are great story tellers and their stories often attempt to explain the mysteries of the environment and the universe. In animate objects were sometimes given ‘godly’ status as they were woven into the myths.

The ancient myth refers to the beginning of all time, when the creator was putting the finishing touches to the earth. As he sorted through the plants he had made, he came across the Boabab tree. Thinking that this tree was incredibly ugly, he tossed it out of paradise. The baobab tree landed upside down in Africa.

Looking down on the earth the creator saw that the baobab was continuing to grow with its branches embedded in the hot African soil and its roots lifted to the sky.

The Bushmen saw this tree as a gift from the gods and to this day they believe that baobab trees do not grow from seed but are still thrown out of paradise by the creator and that they grow upside down where they land.

(This is possibly because the young trees do not look anything like the mature trees).

The Bushmen also believe that if you listen carefully at night, you might hear the thudding sound as the trees land on earth. By throwing the baobab tree down to earth, the creator gave the Bushmen a ‘tree gift’. Every part of this remarkable tree was used by the Bushmen. The tree is often hallow and the trunk of the tree was used as a storage area and for shelter. The bark has a high water content and was chewed by the Bushmen to relieve thirst.

The wood of the tree can easily be made into rope and the leaves can be eaten by animals as well as humans.

The fruit of the baobab contains tartaric acid hence the name ‘creame of tartar tree’. The fruit is also rich in Vitamin C and calsium.The seed can be eaten or ground to make coffee and the pollen can be used as glue.

The flowers are large and very beautiful. They appear at Christmas time and are a gift of beauty for the Bushmen and other travellers.

The bushmen were great story tellers who regarded life as a story. Everything they encountered on their travels was explained with a story. They believed that plants, animals and even the stars and the planets were once people. Bushmen spoke to the sun, moon and stars and prayed to them for guidance. They also believed that the stars were hunters travelling across the heavens in search of prey.

One of the most famous of all Bushmen stories tell of a young girl left alone at the campsite. The men had gone on a long journey to hunt for food and the women had gone in search of water. The men and the women had been gone all day and as the sun dipped below the horizon and the darkness of the night crept over the desert, the young girl sat alone at the fire. She longed for the hunters and the women to return safely so that they could be together again. The girl worried that the hunters and the women had travelled too far from the campsite and that they would not see the glow of the fire to guide them home.

Then the girl had an idea. She scooped up a handful of glowing embers from the fire and she tossed them into the air. Again and again she threw the ashes as high as she could. The hot desert wind picked up the ashes and swept them up into the dark night sky. The girl watched in amazement as the burning ash became millions of tiny stars forming an arch across the sky. The girl knew that the hunters and the women would be guided by the path of stars as it stretched form horison to horizon. From that day on, the Milky Way glows softly in the night sky guiding weary travellers home.