Under the Acacia
It was our last day and we still had so many questions. We decided to start by interviewing some of the members of the tribe underneath a big Acacia tree they use as a living space. The chief was first.
Shakwa looks like he is in his late 20s but his body language and his eyes tell a much older story. He sat down, his head adorned with a beaded headdress and his torso covered by an impala skin and he began to tell us the story of his tribe. He looked away for a moment and then continued talking about the daily demands of life in the bush and how proud he is of who they are. When asked about people from the village, he describes them as lost. He feels as though they given up on their culture, on their heritage.
Following the chief we interviewed Shumuyaa, N’Oye (N [click] Oye) and Haydi-e’ (Shakwa’s mother). They all glow with pride and excitement about their tribe, it’s culture and their lives. Asking if they had any dreams for the future, every single one of them started smiling and gave the same answer, ‘We live in the present and only worry about today and maybe tomorrow.’
A Little Rain
The afternoon offered our last chance to capture the uniqueness of their culture. We started by shooting a video where each individual member spoke into the camera, recording the beautiful distinctness of their names. After that everyone was eager to pose for our last photographs.
The one thing we had not had a chance to capture up until then was a group portrait. We had chosen to shoot atop the outcrop of rocks where we had climbed the first day. The contrast between the hunters in the foreground against the backdrop of Lake Eyasi and the Ngorongoro Crater in the background seemed like the only fitting way of portraying how beautifully harsh life is there.
Nevertheless it was quite a challenge. We had an hour of daylight left to juggle a team of 4 photographers, a group of men we wanted to position but who were standing on another rock entirely (as well as not speaking the same language) and doing battle with the natural elements. The first of these elements came when N’Oye had to kill a green mamba lying in the rocks next to him, something he proudly hung around his neck like a piece of jewelry, another reminder of the differences between our 2 walks of life.
The second was was the rain. With everyone balanced on the highest rock, busy trying to shoot one more group portrait, sheets of water started smashing against the rocks. Whilst the team became concerned about the equipment we had up there, it became apparent that the tribe were equally as worried about their poison arrows getting wet.
We followed the men, sliding back back down the now slippery rocks, until we reached a small cave they used for shelter during the rainy season. They were already under a shower of rainwater gushing from the rocks above. And then something incredible happened. First they started laughing, but this morphed into singing and dancing. We just stood there, silently witnessing something very special. Eventually our cameras fell by our sides, unable to watch through a lens any longer, entranced by the music.
After the rain subsided we climbed the rest of the way out of the outcrop. Back down with the rest of the tribe,the men made a fire so they could dry off. The women and the children joined and the tribe started to dance and sing together. Shakwa took the lead, like a conductor, directing them through each song and dance.
As night fell the song died away and it was replaced by stories around the fire. There were many stories. Some were about their ancestors, some were jokes but mostly they were about what had happened in the week.
Andak one of the eldest of the boys spoke of the time he and a friend went searching for honey only to be rewarded with a number of bee stung arms. It was fascinating to see that someone potentially seen as a junior in the group’s hierarchy was given the time and respect to recant his own story. But before he could finish Ed made his own story when he tried to feed the fire but ended up burning his hand instead. As he hopped around in pain everyone laughed, probably because this is a lesson every Hadza child must learn the hard way.
Just before it was time to leave, Shakwa, seen as the strongest in the group, began to sing a lullaby to the smallest children. And then it was time to head home, this time for the last time. We said our final goodbyes and it truly felt as though we have made friends for life.