The Kalahari is the world's largest sandy area. But it is not a desert without life. Rather, it is a thirsty land whose many kinds of inhabitants are ceaseless nomads, seeking this life-giving moisture that they do not always succeed in finding. "Pula" is the word for rain in Botswana, and it is also the name given to money in this young republic, for such is the importance of the rains.

In our day, Botswana has become one of the most stable and peaceful of the southern African nations. Its diversified resources - diamonds, mining, livestock, tourism - have sheltered it from severe poverty, and the policies inherited from its first president, Sir Seretse Khama, have permitted the growth of harmonious coexistence among its peoples. Bantus, Hereros from Namibia, Hambukushus from Angola and whites of European origin share the expanse of Botswana with the San, or bushmen.

The area of Botswana that is the antipode of Molokai is the region of Ngamiland. The major population center is Maun. Surrounding it, the Kalahari offers its widely varied landscapes and a few reserves that are fighting to preserve the threatened wildlife of modern Africa. The delta of the Okawango is located in the north. It is a huge river mouth that pours out its waters into the middle of the desert. Elephants, lions, buffaloes and all the big animals of wild Africa share this space, in the midst of exuberant vegetation and surrounded by every imaginable form of lower life. To the east are the great reaches of Makgadekgade, the remains of an ancient lake. There are vast plains broken here and there by isolated groups of baobob trees or by mysterious clumps of palm trees. Towards the western part of Maun is the lake of Ngami, where life becomes easier and the environment is more like that of humid Okawango. Settlements of Hereros surround the lake with activity and color.

The African Vertex of the project is located in the south, near the Central Kalahari Reserve. There the power of the desert grows. Trees grow scarcer, until finally a sea of sand covers everything. There is a forty-degree difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures. Mirages and silence mark the line of the endless horizon. In the midst of these lands, metaphysical and still, it seems as if the world has long forgotten the organic experience of life. But as soon as the rains fall, all of this vast sea turns green, its plains are covered with gleaming grasses (veldt), and the life cycle of the desert begins again. This is the land of the magnificent oryx and those antelope species capable of surviving the increasingly intense droughts. It is also home to the elephant.

And it is the home of the San people or bushmen. They were the earliest settlers of the Kalahari, and now they are one of the last groups on Earth who have managed to maintain their archaic form of life, although not without a struggle. Their relationship with Nature is a reflection of that era known as the Golden Age. They love this dry land that they roam, the animals they hunt, the shining Milky Way, which for them is the backbone of the divine Sky. They know the plants and tubers, the lethal poisons and healing medicines. They share everything, from the meat that they hunt to the water that they find. Wandering in Indian file across the veldt, they build huts in which they live during the temperate times of the year, only to abandon them when the surrounding area dries out. They never hunt elephants, because they believe them to be as intelligent as human beings. The San do not steal from the lion, nor do they let it steal the prey that they have hunted, but drive it away with shouts and stones. Their culture is rich and delicate and their tales have the cosmogonic style of ancestral myths. The rock paintings they have left on the mountainsides are in no way inferior to those of the Tassili or Altamira. Their bodies are a marvel of flexibility, strength and harmony.



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