National Geographic : 2009 Dec
Baboon hunters (top right) team up to haul quarry back to camp at sunrise. Arrows tipped with poison from desert rose plants help bring down prey. Tissue near wounds is excised so diners don't ingest the toxin. The arrival of meat in camp may spur a line dance (bottom right), but the Hadza also dance deep in the night as a ritual or at any hour for sheer pleasure. fat, rather than meat, is what the Hadza crave, though most coveted are the baboon s paw pads. Isnagabitofoneandpopitinmymouth,but it s like trying to swallow a pencil eraser. When I spit the gob of paw pad out, a young boy instantly picks it up and swallows it. Onwas, with the baboon s head, is comfort- ably above the fray. He sits cross-legged at his re and eats the cheeks, the eyeballs, the neck meat, and the forehead skin, using the soles of his sandals as a cutting board. He gnaws the skull clean to the bone, then plunges it into the re and calls me and the hunters over for a smoke. It is impossible to overstate just how much Onwas---and most Hadza---love to smoke. e four possessions every Hadza man owns are a bow, some arrows, a knife, and a pipe, made from a hollowed-out, so stone. e smoking material, tobacco or cannabis, is acquired from a neighboring group, usually the Datoga, in exchange for honey. Onwas has a small amount of tobacco, which is tied into a ball inside his shirttail. He retrieves it, stu s it all into his pipe, and then, holding the pipe vertically, plucks an ember from the re and places it atop his pipe. Pulsing his cheeks in and out like a bellows, he inhales the greatest quantity of smoke he pos- sibly can. He passes the pipe to Giga. en the fun begins. Onwas starts to cough, slowly at rst, then rapidly, then uncontrolla- bly with tears bursting from his eyes, then with palms pushing against his head, and then, nally, rolling onto his back, spitting and gasping for air. In the meantime, Giga has begun a simi- lar hacking session and has passed the pipe to Maduru, who then passes the pipe to me. Soon, all of us, the whole circle of men, are hacking and crying and rolling on our backs. e smoke session ends when the last man sits up, grin- ning, and brushes the dirt from his hair. With the baboon skull still in the re, Onwas rises to his feet and claps his hands and begins to speak. It s a gira e-hunting story---Onwas s favorite kind. I know this even though Mariamu, my translator, is not next to me. I know because Onwas, like many Hadza, is a story performer. There are no televisions or board games or books in Onwas s camp. But there is entertain- ment. e women sing songs. And the men tell camp re stories, the Kabuki of the bush. Onwas elongates his neck and moves around on all fours when he s playing the part of the gira e. He jumps and ducks and pantomimes shooting a bow when he s illustrating his own role. Arrows whoosh. Beasts roar. Children run to the re and stand around, listening intently; this is their schooling. e story ends with a dead gira e---and as a nale, a call and response. "Am I a man?" asks Onwas, holding out his hands. "Yes!" shouts the group. "You are a man." "Am I a man?" asks Onwas again, louder. "Yes!" shouts the group, their voices also louder. "You are a man!" Onwas then reaches into the re and pulls out the skull. He hacks it open, like a coconut, exposing the brains, which have been boiling for a good hour inside the skull. They look like ramen noodles, yellowish white, lightly steaming. He holds the skull out, and the men, I ENVY HOW FREE THE HADZA APPEAR TO BE. FREE FROM POSSESSIONS AND MOST SOCIAL DUTIES. FREE FROM SCHEDULES, JOBS, BOSSES, LAWS, NEWS, MONEY. FREE FROM WORRY.