Does the name //au/hana mean anything to you? Pronounced with the tonal clicks of the Kalahari Bushmen, //au/hana is the star of the 1981 movie ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’, in which a coke bottle fell from the skies and changed Bushman life forever. In reality, Namibia’s 1600 Bushmen have all but disappeared in the face of industrialisation; a fate shared by the Kalahari as a whole. DAVID ADAMS met //au/hana in his village and talks to conservationists about the tenuous future of ‘Real People’ and their wilderness.
It was 1981 when //au /hana first walked across our screens in ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’ and picked up that fateful coke bottle that tumbled from the sky. However the life portrayed in the film had already disappeared more than a quarter of a century before the film’s production. For thousands of years the Bushmen were an integral part of the Kalahari ecosystem. By the 1980s they were the bottom rung in the Apartheid ladder.
Considered sub-human by European colonialists, they had been dispossessed of their ancestral lands, hunted and slaughtered to the verge of extinction. Like indigenous peoples all over the world, they represent the human face of our imperiled environment. Their situation is in many respects not unlike the situation of the tiger, the elephant or the rainforest; all are threatened by a voracious industrialized world.