Photos Kgao Xau is a San Bushmen hunter of the Kalahari Desert. He is one of the few remaining traditional click-speaking Bushmen who are living evidence of an ancient way of life, that of hunting and gathering. Their culture and lifestyle may be 40,000 years old and they retain a rich understanding of their harsh environment in the Kalahari which ensures their survival.Bushmen hunters go out daily in search of food. When a Bushman hunter stalks an animal he believes he is entering a ritual exchange with the animal who eventually gives himself up. The eland, the largest antelope in Africa, is sacred to the Bushmen and prized for its fat; it is belived to have supernatural potency.The hunters take aim with bows and arrows tipped with poison. This poison is found in the larvae of a beetle, which, on the tip of an arrowhead, can bring down an elephant. When an animal is killed, the recognition goes to the maker of the arrow, rather than to the hunter.Women are responsible for building the encampments of dome-shaped grass huts with small hearths for cooking outside the entrances of each hut.Dix//hao Xi !ae was admired for the beaded tab decorations completely covering her head, an example of her skilled handiwork.Daily, women gather berries, seeds, roots, and tubers. They have a deep understanding of the land and this knowledge has ensured their survival. Tubers, known as !Xwaa (upper right), provide water in times of drought; A favorite white truffle (lower right) is found underground. The Bushmen know which tubers, under the surface of the earth, contain enough water to keep a person alive during drought.Sought after by women gatherers, fiber-rich kongolobi berries (right) and edible giant jewel beetles (left) called Dx/wane are part of their diet.A portrait of Xem Komtsa wearing beads, hides and a stitched leather pouch. Sadly, Xem passed away after our last visit.A special hut is built using branches and leaves for a young girl when she gets her first period. She will be isolated in the hut for two days while undergoing ritual blessings.When a girl gets her first period, she is covered with an eland skin and receives a ritual blessing with the sacred fat of the eland. She stays isolated for two days while women circle her hut, clapping and dancing to honor her newfound maturity.After the blessings are performed, her eyebrows are accentuated with fine charcoal dots to enhance her beauty. The elders will then select the most eligible boy as her partner. She has up to two years to decide if she will accept him as her husband.A young woman named Teabo decorates her hides, body, and hair with colorful beadwork in simple abstract designs.Details of a woman’s stitched leather pouch and beaded hide skirt. The patterns represent the entopic images one sees when first entering trance. The designs are often described as patterns on snakes.Women perform the melon dance, advancing forward in groups of two. One woman tosses the melon with a twisting curve of the hand: the other woman attempts to catch it, like catching a curve ball. The beautiful character wrinkles of the skin of Bushman elders is caused by the sunlight’s ultra violet radiation which breaks down the skin’s connective tissue in the deeper layers. Trance dancing is one of the major ritual forms of healing among the Bushmen. At night, Bushmen shamans gather together to dance around a large fire. They are said to be dancing eland potency” as they enter the spirit world, where they make contact with the sacred animal and draw on its healing powers.Late into the night, San women sit around the fire clapping and singing hypnotically, accompanying the trance dancers. The shared catharsis of the dance bonds the community and is believed to remove stress and conflict. As one shaman falls into a trance, another one holds him protectively. Kgao Qame, the leading shaman, enters a trance where the spiritual and natural worlds become one.This San Bushmen rock painting, circa 1000 BC, depicts a trance dance in which, it is said, shamans absorb the power of the sacred eland and assume its form. Today, some San Bushmen still practice the ceremony, with women clapping and chanting in accompanyment and men advancing with sticks in hand, stamping the ground with resonating ankle pods, and imitating the movements of the eland.