Linguistic and Cultural Roots
The Hadzabe (sing. Hadza) are semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers located in northern Tanzania around Lake Eyasi. Linguistically, they speak with “clicks” that are characteristic of languages throughout southern Africa, such as that of the Kalahari Bushmen, and is loosely classified as a Khoisan language. Linguistically and culturally they are members of the ‘Khoi’ (person) and ‘San’ (forager) groups. In Tanzania, the Hadza people form close affinities with the Sandawe people who have cultural connections with the San or KhoeKhoe hunter-gatherers communities of southern Africa. Hadzabe men are polygamists and the Hadza social system is mainly patriarchal. Women are adorned with traditional pieces of skin known locally as “hangweda.”
Location and Natural Habitat
The Hadzabe traditional territory, of approximately 930 square miles, has game-rich savannas. In recent years, they have been squeezed into the area around Lake Eyasi just south of the Serengeti. Their lands are full of baobab and other bush trees, which provide their substance livelihood. They are skillful hunters and their knowledge of plants, tubers, fruits and wild animals is extensive.
The Hadzabe Hunting and Gathering Way of Life
Hadzabe division of labor is split between hunting and foraging. Although foraging is primarily done by women and hunting by men, both genders are often active participants in hunting and foraging. Women bring back small game from the bush from time to time and most foraging parties are conducted with at least one male present.
The Hadza diet consists of honey, fruit (mostly baobab), tubers, and meat from a variety of game such as dikers, baboons, and bush-pigs. The choice foods vary depending on their seasonal abundance. Foraging tools include: a digging stick, a large storage pouch made from animal hide to carry smaller objects such as a knife and a variety of clothing items. Hunting tools include: a bow with arrows, a small container for collecting honey, a three-piece fire starter, and baboon skins that protect them from thorns in the bush.
Concerns About Hadzabe Physical Cultural Continuity
Currently, the Hadzabe numbers have shrunk to around 800-1,000 individuals and are one of the last hunter-gather ethnic groups left in the world. They are ardent traditionalists though the government continues to pressure them to abandon their hunting and gathering lifestyle. Several sedentary programs were established to allure them into permanent villages and agriculture. They have no distinguishable leaders. This poses a potential problem for their physical and cultural continuity. They are losing their customary land territories to pastoralists (Barbaig) and agriculturalists (Iraqw) neighbors. They also face constant invasion from commercial and recreational hunters and agriculturalists in their meager territory.
Here the Hadzabe chief imitates the sounds of animals the Hadzabe hunt.