Ethnography may be referred to as a detailed study and analytical data documentation of the human culture. In our case study, Richard Borshay Lee a Canadian anthropologist born in year 1937 did a study in the southern part of Africa. His study was on tribe many had perceived to be marginalised and dying race. His case study brings out in his more vivid outlook of the lively hood of the Ju/’hoansi in a way contrary to the norm perceived by many.
In his study Lee brings out the two main groups living in the Dobe area. They were the Khoi and San. Khoi were mainly herders rearing goat and cattle. They had a distinctive click whenever they spoke .Their counterparts on the other hand were much similar to Khoi both in language and physical appearance. They only difference was that the San were foragers. They sustained themselves by consuming shellfish and wild animals and plants. They are normally referred to as bush hunters.
Lee points out existence of water hole, this was in the in the regard of the harsh climatic conditions surrounding them. This would give a clear notion that the people of Dobe land had to struggle for existence. They had to adapt to such kind of conditions. Their food surprisingly varied from wild nuts, wild fruits such berries, edible gum and roots, edible roots and leaves. Each had been identified to be fit for their consumption. They also had a common preference kind of diet. That was meat though it wasn’t in plenty they used to equally share among the members of the community. This avoided development of hatred among the members due to unequal sharing.
An assumption that the people of Dobe area used to walk naked would be questionable. This is true because the women had kaross a special one-piece multitasking garment made by their men. The materials used in making the garments were adapted from hides of wild animals such as kudus and wildebeest. Small leather bag swung around the shoulder would be noticed in both men and women. It acted as a tool kit bag harbouring fire making kits, sewing materials and even tobacco.
Their housing unit would largely depend on the season. During the rainy season huts would only take a day to complete. More detailed ones such as dry seasons hut would take a few more days like 3 to 4 to complete. A simple illustration of such hut would be made from pole preferably 10 would be dug into the ground. Then the top are strongly pulled together with them still dug into the ground .The top would be covered by grass collected and tied together. This provides cover for the sunshine. The sides would then be reinforced with branches. Though he showed that the Ju/’hoansi people are adapting mud houses with a pole at the center.
Lee pointed out the existence of gods in creatures such jackals and playing mantis in the environment they live in. But he introduces main spiritual gods apart from the high and lesser gods. The ghost a dead Ju/’hoansi referred to as //gangwasi .It is believed to be epic of misfortunes and some serious ailments. He then illustrates another god that gives healers ability to eradicate sickness among the sick known to them as n/um. This clearly shows that Ju/’hoansi considers religion as sacred entity in their culture.
Hunting and gathering has been the only life the Ju/’hoansi people knew .Hence moving form that kind of lifestyle would have proven to be difficult for the clans .Due to the unreliable rainfall, none of them was willing to change into farming. Just like the example he illustrated of Debe and Bo who also found it hard moving into herding and farming. It’s in their culture to hunt and gather hence the stiffness.
Lee, R. B. (2013). The Dobe Ju/'hoansi. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.