Hadzabe life and Culture in Tanzania
Hadza lead a stress-free, simple life without worries. Unlike us, they are not interested in materialistic possessions. Traditional Hadzabe, they live almost completely without things. They have a cooking pot, a water container, an ax – all can be wrapped in a blanket and carried around the shoulder. They sleep when they want to. Some do not sleep most of the night and doze off in the heat of the day. Dawn and dusk are the best hunting times. When they do not hunt, men often spend time in the camp, straightening arrows, twisting arches, making chords from a giraffe or impala ligaments, hammering nails into the arrowheads.
Even if they do not find food, they do not worry and remain patient with nature. They live for the moment and their only goal is survival. Maybe that’s why agriculture has never appealed to them – growing plants requires planning; the seeds are sown earlier to eat the crop in months. Domestic animals must be fed and protected long before they are ready for slaughter. It doesn’t make sense to Hadzabe. Why grow food or raise animals when it’s all ready in the bush? When they want berries, they look for a berry bush. When they want baobab fruit, they go to baobab trees. Honey is waiting for them in wild beehives. And meat, fresh, keep in the largest warehouse in the world – on their land. All you need is a moment of tracking and a well-fired arrow.
Hadza day begins early in the morning, people wake up slowly and chat at the morning bonfire. After a while, most adults leave the camp to gathering food. Women walk in groups, usually accompanied by one teenage boy who goes with them to protect them from possible violence of neighboring tribes.
Men usually linger alone or in pairs. The children remain in the camp; they play and collect food all day. Children’s games and activities often involve collecting and processing food. Children themselves collect a large percentage of their food and are also fed by family and friends. In the middle of the day, most of Hadza is resting. Regardless of whether they are in the camp or outside, they rest until the heat in the middle of the day calms down. Most camp members return before dark when evening dinner preparations begin. Preparation of a Hadzabe meal is simple – the meat is placed directly on the fire. No grill, no pan. Everyone sits densely around the fire and waits for the meat to be ready to eat. Then everyone grabs their piece of meat with their teeth and tries to cut the torn piece with a knife. The bones are crushed with stones and the marrow is sucked out. Fat is rubbed into the skin as a type of moisturizer.
Hadzabe’s bodies are often covered with dust because they rarely use baths. Hadzabe men say that they prefer their women not to take a bath – the more time between baths, the more attractive they are. Water is not considered necessary for survival and they are not looking for sources that could quench thirst or washing. A muddy, large puddle is all they need for a bath. A handful of mud is rubbed into the skin as an exfoliating agent.
Hadzabe are free people. Free of property, most social and family responsibilities. No religious restrictions. They live without a schedule, without money, without attachment to the workplace. However, their lives are extremely risky. No medical attention. Women give birth in the bush, squatting. About one-fifth of all children die in the first year of life, and almost half of all children fail to be 15 years old. They have to deal with extreme heat, frequent thirst and swarming tsetse flies and malaria-spreading mosquitoes.
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Society is usually organized in camps. Hadzabe live in camps shared with relatives, in-laws, and friends. They are rather loose relations. Work and food are shared between related and unrelated camp members. Each camp has several main members, but most others come and go when they want. Children live mainly with parents and siblings, but they can often live with grandparents or aunts and uncles. Children are raised in a shared environment in which most aspects of everyday life take place in front of everyone in the camp. Usually, the camp is inhabited by no more than 30 people – this is the largest number for which two large animals are enough to satisfy hunger.
In the dry season, from May to October, Hadza sleeps in the open air by the fire. In the rainy season, they build small domed shelters made of interwoven twigs and long grasses: they basically look like inverted bird nests that take no more than an hour to build. They sleep on the skin of animals and cover her body, sometimes decorated with colorful beads. They change the place of the camp about once a month, when the berries run out, hunting becomes difficult, or a serious illness or death occurs.
The camps are traditionally named after the eldest man, but this honor does not give any special rights. Hadzabe do not recognize official leaders. No adult Hadzabe has power over another.
The population of Hadzabe has not evolved and is not identified with modern man. Their expressions are limited to the unique language of clicks, understood only by their groups. It may seem strange how click sounds allow them to communicate clearly and precisely. Their expressions and interactions focus on their simplified lifestyle – what to eat, how to hunt, and how to survive. They share intimacy on special nights when men try to impress women, but they don’t have daily ties or relationships. Hi Hadzabe, she learned Swahili to communicate with other groups.
Beliefs and rituals
In the life of the tribe, there is not much place for mysticism, for ghosts, for considering the unknown. There is no specific faith in the afterlife – Hadzabe, they do not think about what will happen after death. Hadza are not sentimental. When one of them dies, there is not much confusion. They dig a hole and put the body inside. Once they didn’t even do it – they just left the body on the ground. There is still no grave mark, no funeral. Even if the person they have lived with all their lives dies, they just throw a few dry branches on the grave and walk away.
Although Hadzabe does not profess religion, they have their vision of the universe and the history of creation. Hadza cosmology includes the sun, moon, stars, and their ancestors. Their creation story tells how Hadza came to populate the earth – he came down either from a baobab tree or from a giraffe’s neck.
Hadzabe has no shamans, priests, or doctors. They do not practice witchcraft, but they believe that other tribes have witchcraft and can effectively curse Hadza. The strongest taboos and rituals surround the epheme – a kind of dance that takes place on moonless nights (the moon lies between earth and sun, and the unlit part faces the earth).
Hadzabe perform their ritual epic dance only under the cover of darkness. Men dress up and dance for women and children as an embodiment of their ancestors. Other evening dances may include members of both sexes dancing together. Women sing, and men individually put on a feathered hat, tie bells around their ankles, and circle women, stamping their right foot to the rhythm of singing. Apparently, on such nights the ancestors emerge from the darkness and join the dance.
Men and Women Roles in Hadzabe Society:
The roles of men and women are different, but there is no forced servitude of women as in many other cultures. Hadzabe women have a lot of autonomy and participate equally in making decisions with men. It is Hadza women who often initiate a break with a man. Women collect baobab berries and fruits and dig edible tubers or roots for medicine. They also make porcupine thorns beads and jewelry. Jewelry gives their chosen ones.
Men collect honey and hunt. They usually hunt solo. The only exception is the baboon searching at night, group hunting, carried out only a few times a year. They eat almost anything they can kill, from birds to wildebeest to zebras and buffaloes; the exception is the snake. Hadzabe hate snakes. They love the baboon for it. Hadzabe say that the man Hadza cannot marry until he has killed five baboons. Hunters can track down almost any animal, and use special poisoned arrows made of tree bark to kill.
The poison that men smear on the arrowheads, made from boiled desert rose juice, is strong enough to knock down a giraffe. But he can’t kill an adult elephant. If hunters come across a dead elephant, crawl inside, cut out meat, organs, and fat and cook them on fire.
Hadzabe are resistant to poisons and what may seem harmful to modern man. Sometimes, instead of pulling a large animal back to the camp, the whole camp moves to the carcass. As usual, Hadzabe, the hunter who killed, does not show off. Hunting is a lot of luck, and even the best archers sometimes experience dry periods. That is why Hadzabe share their meat.