Wednesday, June 27, 2007


The Hadzabe, last hunter and gatherers of East Africa

The Hadzabe community live around Lake Eyasi to the south of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania. They are reported to be the last remaining ancestors of the original hunter-gatherer tribes who first inhabited Tanzania. The Hadzabe are assiduous and very skilled hunters. They use a number of methods to attract game within range of their arrows, including the use of the horns of an antelope, attaching them to their heads while mimicking the animal’s characteristic bobbing walk, which draws other curious animals closer. Another method is to hide under an animal skin, and wait for vultures to land, when they can easily be caught. The Hadzabe community supplement their diet with roots and plants, and they have a particular liking for honey, which they trade with other tribes in exchange for arrowheads or tobacco.

The home seen in the background belongs to one Hadzabe family.

Hunting and honey-gathering are predominantly male activities, while the women and children forage for roots and fruits. The Hadzabe tend to avoid eating reptiles, and the greatest delicacy is considered to be the baboon. Baboon fur is often used to make garment parts for the men. The rudimentary huts are made of grass, woven by the women, and can be constructed in a matter of hours.

Playing a traditional string music instrument. The hide this man is sitting on also serves for sleeping

Sharpening the hunting arrows
Photos by Ragdaddy

The Hadzabe lifestyle is increasingly threatened as their traditional lands have been taken by commercial plantations and farms. This has had the effect of creating barriers along the seasonal migration routes of the animals, upon which the Hadzabe depend for hunting. In the 1970s the then socialist government of Tanzania attempted to resettle them in a newly constructed settlement with schools, a clinic and brick houses, but within ten years the Hadzabe had abandoned the settlement, going back to their traditional way of life in the bush. The pressures on them are immense, however, as the area of land they inhabit becomes increasingly constrained, and despite their resistance to formal education, a monetary economy and religious indoctrination by missionaries, they have increasingly come into contact with foreign tourists, which has brought problems of its own. Despite bringing in revenue for the Hadzabe community, this has proved to be a huge culture shock.

The Hadzabe seem to prefer adapting to change at their own pace. Though some Hadzabe children attend primary and secondary boarding school in the valley, programs to build new schools and provide medical care and water have mostly benefited neighboring tribes and have lured more people to the overpopulated valley. Several members of the Hadzabe community have even tried to adopt their neighbors' ways, starting small farms while some have headed to villages to look for jobs.

Hunter up a tree scouting for wild game
Making fire

Poking holes on the beehive in order to incite the bees into leaving the bee hive. The smoke is used to drunken the bees so that they do not get stung by the bees as they hunt for the honey combs.

Honeycombs retrieved and ready to eat

They close in as much as they could to their prey before shooting

Game meat is always shared with other families

One method of hanging on to their kill while hunting continues

The Hadzabe life is simple and pristine, free from the hustle and bustle of the complex so called 'civilized world' we live in today. Should they be assimilated to the contemporary society we live in well the ball bounces back to their court - it is their prerogative to decide
Photos by Grace D Lambiotte


"One of the last remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers on the planet is on the verge of vanishing into the modern world.

The transition has been long under way, but members of the dwindling Hadzabe tribe, who now number fewer than 1,500, say it is being unduly hastened by a United Arab Emirates royal family, which plans to use the tribal hunting land as a personal safari playground.

The deal between the Tanzanian government and Tanzania UAE Safaris Ltd. leases nearly 2,500 square miles of this sprawling valley near the storied Serengeti Plain to members of the royal family, who chose it after a helicopter tour.

A Tanzanian official, Philip Marmo, called the Hadzabe "backwards" and said they would benefit from the school, roads and other projects the UAE company has offered as compensation.

But dozens of Hadzabe interviewed ...said that while they are ready to modernize, slowly, they were not consulted on the deal, which is a direct threat to their way of life because it involves hunting.


"If they are going to come here, ...Our history will die..."

For more information on Seattle Times Click here

Watch Hadzabe Dance Video
The Language of the Land: Living Among the Hadzabe in Africa by James Stephenson
Photos by Grace D Lambiotte
Hadzabe tribe an endangered species by IPP Media
(I found this news heading appalling. The Hadzabe community being referred to as "an endangered species" is categorically wrong. Is it the culture that is threatened or their lives?)
Discussion on the Hadzabe on Metafilter (This is very interesting)


Admin said...

I totally agree with the Hadzabe people when said that they are ready to modernize, but is a threat to their way of life, as much as we want to be modrnized it has erode alot of our traditional culture, through people imitating the 'western' type of life. As an african we should always preserve our believes, morals, values and tradition because that is what we are what distinguishes from the west.

luihamu said...

Good work African Liz,keep it up.

BarbadosInFocus said...

This is another wonderful post on Africa.

tanzanianboy said...

As a Tanzanian I would love to PROTECT the Hadzabe culture but at the same time there is great importance of bringing social services to their areas.

I totally disagree with the current government plan of giving the Hadzabe homeland to a foreign "investors". Tanzania is massively huge, they can invest in any other area BUT NOT in Singida rural.


Change is indeed inevitable for the Hadzabe community and other communities that have for centuries maintained their traditional cultures and norms. Since this communities constitute and form a part of a larger community(the nation state), they will have to weave their way into the increasingly "modern world". However, the challenge is striking a balance between assimilating these communities into the "modern world" while at the same time seeking to prevent the erosion of their indigenous knowledge and culture.

Benin said...


This is a very touching story. I guess this sort of presents a different side to the trading and economic growth that we aspire to see the continent continue to exude. As you say striking that all too fleeting balance between the modern ways and the more time tested ways of the Hadzabe is difficult. But it is somthing that might ciontribute to the greater good of all humanity.

Keep it up!

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