David Lewis-Williams

There Be Foragers

Affluence without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen

By

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In 1856 the Reverend Henry Tindall addressed a Cape Town audience: ‘He has no religion, no laws, no government, no recognised authority, no patrimony, no fixed abode … a soul, debased, it is true, and completely bound down and clogged by his animal nature … morally, as well as physically, his aspect is dark and discouraging.’ He was speaking of the southern African Bushmen, or San as they are widely known today. Since those days of disgust, the Western image of the San has undergone changes, not all for the good. One of the chief architects of what became a common perception of the San was Sir Laurens van der Post, whose romantic view derived from his own conception of the West’s supposedly impoverished spirituality. In his widely read book The Lost World of the Kalahari (1958), he wrote: ‘Perhaps this life of ours, which begins as a quest of the child for the man, and ends as a journey by the man to rediscover the child, needs a clear image of some child-man, like the Bushman, wherein the two are firmly and lovingly joined.’

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