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[Opinion] Bushmen

Posted July. 07, 2003 21:50,   


The 1980 comedy hit `The Gods Must be Crazy` portrayed the way Bushmen lives, catching the eyes of the audience in the western world. It was a fresh story that a bottle, an unknown object to the Bushmen community, started to create chaos and strife. People must have looked back themselves watching the simple life of Bushmen in nature. Namibian Bushman `Nikau,` who starred in the movie, soon became a worldwide star after the movie. After staying in western countries for about a decade, however, he returned to his home country and has long been forgotten since then.

The life of Bushmen, also known as San, was all shattered when Europeans rushed into Africa during the colonial era. A young Bushmen woman in her early 20s was captured in 1810 and sent to Europe. She was on display at bars in London and Paris, caged and naked, for five years before she finally died. Then, they named her `Sarah Bartman` and removed her brain and genital part. Her remains then had long been kept in a museum in Paris before sending back to her home country only last year. A nature museum in Banyoles City, Spain also long displayed a stuffed body of a Bushman and removed it only in 1997 facing complaints from African countries. Simply put, Europeans did not treat Bushmen as human beings.

Despite the painful history, Bushmen living in the Kalahari Desert are believed to be the oldest living mankind along with the Pygmy in the Congo, according the results of recent studies. Anthropologists have considered Bushmen `living fossils` because of their hunter-gatherer lifestyle, which is similar to that of primitive humans. Bushmen knew how to survive in the desert without food for days. When water began to be pumped out underground, however, they were forced out by White people. Today there are some 50,000 Bushmen living across settlement villages.

The star of the movie Nikau died recently near his home. Nikau, who visited Korea in 1991 during a move promotional tour, lived the last ten years of his life at home in the Kalahari. He must have missed Mother Nature, how sweet the civilized world was. Can we say that Nikau, who did not know his exact age himself, was less happy than people in this part of the world who drive their cars on weekend to be a part of nature? Thinking of his sheepish smile, I find the questions hard to answer.

Kim Sang-young, Editorial Writer, youngkim@donga.com