National Geographic : 2009 Dec
Hadza women such as Samay are independent and powerful, free to marry or divorce at will. Scars on her cheeks may be from childhood cuts meant to curb crying---tears make cuts sting. Following pages: As Ncolo (left) and his sister Sangu grow up, they will shoulder more adult duties. One in particular, Nduku, appointed herself my language teacher and spent a good percentage of every lesson teasing me mercilessly, often rolling around in laughter as I failed miserably at reproducing the distinct, tongue-tricky clicks. Onwas knows of about 20 Hadza groups roaming the bush in his area, constantly swap- ping members, like a giant square dance. Most con icts are resolved by the feuding parties sim- ply separating into di erent camps. If a hunter brings home a kill, it is shared by everyone in his camp. is is why the camp size is usually no more than 30 people---that s the largest number who can share a good-size game animal or two and feel decently sated. I was there during the six-month dry season, May through October, when the Hadza sleep in the open, wrapped in a thin blanket beside a camp re---two to six people at each hearth, eight or nine res spread in a wide semicircle fronting a brush-swept common area. e sleep groupings were various: families, single men, young women (with an older woman as minder), couples. During the rainy season, they construct little domed shelters made of interwoven twigs and long grasses: basically, upside-down bird s nests. To build one takes no more than an hour. ey move camp roughly once a month, when the berries run low or the hunting becomes tough or there s a severe sickness or death. No one sleeps alone in Onwas s camp. He assigned his son Ngaola, the one who had waited a few days by the tree, to stay with me, and Ngaola recruited his friend Maduru to join us. e three of us slept in a triangle, head to toe to head around our re, though when the mosqui- toes were erce, I slept in my tent. Ngaola is quiet and introspective and a really poor hunter. He s about 30 years old and still unmarried; bedeviled, perhaps, by the ve- baboon rule. It pains him that his older brother, Giga, is probably the most skilled archer in Onwas s camp), but this honor does not confer any particular power. Individual autonomy is the hallmark of the Hadza. No Hadza adult has authority over any other. None has more wealth; or, rather, they all have no wealth. ere are few social obligations---no birthdays, no religious holidays, no anniversaries. People sleep whenever they want. Some stay up much of the night and doze during the heat of the day. Dawn and dusk are the prime hunt- ing times; otherwise, the men o en hang out in camp, straightening arrow sha s, whittling bows, making bowstrings out of the ligaments of gira es or impalas, hammering nails into arrow- heads. ey trade honey for the nails and for colorful plastic and glass beads that the women fashion into necklaces. If a man receives one as a gi , it s a good sign he has a female admirer. ere are no wedding ceremonies. A couple that sleeps at the same re for a while may even- tually refer to themselves as married. Most of the Hadza I met, men and women alike, were serial monogamists, changing spouses every few years. Onwas is an exception; he and his wife, Mille, have been with each other all their adult lives, and they have seven living children and several grandchildren. ere was a bevy of children in the camp, with the resident grandmother, a tiny, cheerful lady named Nsalu, running a sort of day care while the adults were in the bush. Except for breast-feeding infants, it was hard to determine which kids belonged to which parents. Gender roles are distinct, but for women there is none of the forced subservience knit into many other cultures. A signi cant number of Hadza women who marry out of the group soon return, unwilling to accept bullying treat- ment. Among the Hadza, women are frequently the ones who initiate a breakup---woe to the man who proves himself an incompetent hunter or treats his wife poorly. In Onwas s camp, some of the loudest, brashest members were women.