Off-Campus Study

World View Photo Contest - Fall 2009

Second Honorable Mention: Michael Bethoney '11

Hadzabe (hunter-gatherers) and myself
Location: Yaeda Valley, northern Tanzania
Photo: Michael Bethoney '11

About the Photo:
This picture was taken during my semester abroad in East Africa, mainly in Kenya and Tanzania. I spent a month, independent from the other students in my program, living with the Hadzabe, hunter-gatherers from northern Tanzania. There are only between 1,000-1,500 Hadzabe still living their traditional, semi-nomadic, hunting and gathering lifestyle, which has been their manner of existence for over ten thousand years. While with the Hadzabe I spent my days hunting with the men, who hunt, kill, and eat any of the indigenous wild game in the Yaeda Valley region, except for elephants and reptiles. The wild game we killed and ate include giraffe, vervet monkey, porcupine, striped hyena, squirrel, eland, dik-dik, bush-pig, impala, guinea fowl, bush-baby, baboon, and an assortment of birds. Our water was gathered from baobab trees, or from a small lake that had formed several kilometers from camp, as a result of the seasonal rains. We cooked our food over an open fire. While we hunted, the women gathered berries and tubers to supplement our communal diet. After hunting all morning, the remainder of the day is dedicated to the refinement of equipment, including making and sharpening the arrow supplies. Nails are melted and hammered with rocks to form new arrowheads. Every few days, in the search for fresh honey, the Hadzabe communicate with songbirds by whistling, which guides them to bees' nests burrowed in trees. During the evening we sat around campfires as I listened to my Hadza friends weave elaborate, exaggerated hunting tales; the Hadzabe are famous for having perfected the craft of storytelling. We slept in clusters around campfires, sleeping head-to-toe for body warmth. The Hadzabe speak Hadzane, their native language, comprised of clicking tones, and Swahili. They do not speak or understand English so we communicated through Kiswahili, which I had learned in class in Kenya, but significantly refined during my complete cultural immersion into Hadzabe society.

I have previously noticed the Worldview Photo Contest winners generally do not have themselves in the pictures, but I simply could not bring myself to select a different picture from my semester abroad. I took several thousand pictures during my five months in East Africa, including pictures from climbing the truly majestic Mt. Kiliminjaro, rafting the magical Nile River, experiences staying with the impressive Maasai, time spent in two different rural villages, and many more from a litany of other experiences. However, this picture is easily my most cherished photograph, as it captures the spirit of my journey with the Hadzabe. Although I was the only white, non-Hadzabe person I saw during my time spent in Yaeda Valley, the Hadza truly accepted me into their society, as a friend and brother. It was tremendously difficult to leave when it was time for my departure, although I know I will return there one day.

If nothing else, I want to say thank you to Hamilton College for having provided me with the irreplaceable and incomparable experience of living with, hunting with, cooking with, sharing stories with, and falling asleep looking at the stars with the Hadzabe, some of the most unique and inspiring people on the planet. Truly, immensely, thank you. — Michael Bethoney '11