Some consider the southern African bushmen the founders of the modern human race. These nomadic peoples lived thousands of years ago in the lowland areas, subsisting largely on local vegetation and the occasional antelope or other meat source, and fostering an intricate system of spiritual beliefs. The rock art they have left behind is believed to be indicative of those beliefs – connecting the bushmen with their ancestors and the spirits present in the land of the living.
Such paintings can be found all over southern Africa, including Lesotho, but the Drakensberg Mountains contain the highest concentration of this art. Pair that with the stunning scenery and one can’t blame the bushman for choosing to leave their mark as vividly as possible in this area. Today these paintings are largely closed to the public and only accessible only with the guidance of a certified tour guide. To understand the history of this region, of Lesotho and South Africa, I strongly feel that one should first look at the lifestyles of the current peoples’ predecessors. This was my first foray with the bushman history, presented in a less hokey manner than the video below, but with equally worthwhile information.
The religious paintings of the bushmen all over southern Africa have become less frequent, and shamanistic use of the wall paint (the rock face was considered an entrance to the spirit world) in medicines and tonics has declined thanks in part to preservation efforts in national parks. As with many marginalized groups, the bushmen face more stringent political restraints on their livelihoods – a truth that unfortunately threatens their culture.
A team of Notre Dame students, members of the Business on the Front Lines (BOTFL) program, have been in Lesotho for the past week studying TTL’s organizational structure in the economic context of Lesotho with the intended purpose of proposing adjustments to improve our sustainability. Needless to say, their task is daunting. I do not envy them; guilty pity may be more accurate.
Yet while in southern Africa, however short the stay, one would be remiss not to travel and immerse in the culture and history a bit. I have done my best to offer them a good experience packed with scenery and history. I could not have completed this weekend trip without the help of my trusted friend (and Sani Lodge tour guide) Matthew, who “dropped knowledge on” the BOTFL students all weekend. I am proud to say that every member of our team finished the long day hike, perhaps a bit wetter and more fatigued than expected, but filled with enough flora and fauna and historical knowledge to contemplate for many days to come.