The Hadzabe of Tanzania

In Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth, Richard Fortey wrote:

There is a common thread that runs through the whole of biological existence…These molecules run through life in the same way as the musical theme runs through the last movement of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony. There is a set of variations which superficially sound very different but which are underpinned by a deeper similarity that binds the whole. The beauty of the structure depends upon the individuality of the passing music, and also upon the coherence of the construction. That vital spark from inanimate matter to animate life happened once and only once, and all living existence depends on that moment. We are one tribe with bacteria that live in hot springs, parasite barnacles, vampire bats and cauliflowers. We all share a common ancestor.

The Hadzabe of Tanzania in East Africa are one of the last remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers in the world. Their numbers are now fewer than 1,500 and are threatened due to encroachment of neighboring pastoralists and agriculturalists as well as a misunderstanding and discrimination by the outside world. Genetic testing indicates they may represent one of the primary roots of the human family tree, more than 100,000 years old.

Since connecting with the Hadza, I’ve been drawn to the connection between sustainability and indigenous wisdom – they are, in fact, inseparable. My intent is to evoke a deep questioning of complacency, especially society’s universal lack of integrity within this connection. The Hadza offered a clear relationship to explore nature’s operating systems, and to reawaken our cellular memory of our relationship with the wild and to consider modernity’s adoption of this ecological framework that could lead to interdependence and more appropriate models of change.

Special thanks to Ethan Kinsey for the introduction to the Hadza. For more information on the protection of the Hadzabe, please visit The Dorobo Fund for Tanzania.