kung san

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kung san

Among the many cultures in Africa, one of the most well known cultures would be the Kung San. The Kung San are a very unique culture and are the most studied foraging society in the world. As with numerous other cultures around the world, the Kung San are faced with many problems. But one problem the Kung San don't face is that of being a nonentity, partially because of the popularized view of the Kung San shown in the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy.

The Kung San are a hunting and gathering people living in southern Africa. Kung San are a varied people in terms of looks and language, and include people living Angola, Botswana, Zambia, and Namibia. The Kung San, like many human groups, have a rigid sexual division of labor, with women doing most of the gathering, food preparation and child care, and men doing hunting and some complementary gathering. There does exist a limited socioeconomic hierarchy by age, with adults controlling more resources and manufactured goods than children. The Kung San usually eat small meals during the day and eat a large supper with the whole family in the evening. Water is a limiting factor in the Kung San environment. The Kung San will disperse in the wet season, and aggregate in camps in the dry season around the few permanent water holes. A Kung San encampment consists of grass huts arranged roughly in a circle, constructed around an area of clearing in the center; these huts are constructed quickly and rarely used for more than a few months at a time. The Kung San maintain a level of egalitarianism so that no one person is revered more than the next and so that no one thinks they are any better than the next. In the Kung San culture, many are married as young as eight years old in order to keep conflicts and extramarital relations down to a minimum. One of the Kung San's favorite activities is to sit in the shade talking amongst themselves. They are afraid of angry words and violence so the occasional dispute is worked out before it becomes a major one. Since competition might bring dispute, they try to live as equals. The Kung San effectively employ talking and joking to avert the escalation of a fight, but perhaps the most important mechanism for maintaining goodwill is the hxaro exchange, a system of gift giving; which not only fosters friendly relations, but also serves to circulate goods and even maintain environmental balance.

As it is with all cultures around the world, the Kung San have their problems to face, but the problem of being an unknown society has already been alleviated due partially to the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, which shows a popularized view of the Kung San. One problem faced sort of recently by the Kung San is the Botswana government's plan to relocate all residents of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in the years 1986 through to 1996. The reserve was originally established to protect the land and resource use rights of local people. The relocation would have a long line of negative effects on both the people relocated and the people living where the relocated people are to be sent to. The plan never worked out and the people stayed on the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The most recent problem started on January 18, 2001, resulting from a plan by the UN refugee agency to move twenty thousand refugees onto Kung San land. The plan would derail a number of community based game management projects and would destroy the forest that provides most of their food. The area is currently home to six thousand of the Kung San and to put twenty thousand more in such a small area would have devastating effects. So far the Kung San have made progress, but the matter still isn't resolved. The movie The Gods Must Be Crazy shows a popularized view of the Kung San, also called Bushmen. This movie shows how much the Kung San want to keep peace amongst themselves and with their surroundings. The movie also shows how they have adapted to the lack of water during drought by collecting dew on leaves set out the night before and by digging up roots, shaving pieces off, and squeezing the water out of the shavings. I thought it was rather comical how they seemed untouched by society, taking a bottle that was dropped of a plane, calling it the evil thing, and taking it to what the Bushman thought was the end of the Earth.

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