Monday, October 10, 2011

talking to the Boys - Kalahari Bushman sandals make for walking

It's like a Bouchercon Redux. On Sunday, Stan, Michael and I sat in the Viennese Kaffeehaus next to M is For Mystery in San Mateo, Ca after their talk on Kubu's latest investigation, Death of the Mantis. Lovely cover. Last time we blogmates met up was a few weeks ago at the Bcon bar with Yrsa, who's at the Frankfurt Book fair right now, Leighton, who's pasta'ing it up in Rome or Palermo, Jeffrey, who might or might not be back in Greece, Tim, who's I don't know where and Dan, in our thoughts, in London. Take that back, Stan and I danced at Bcon at the party. He twirled me so much on the floor to Max Allan Collins 60's rocknroll band I got dizzy. Light weight me begged off and sat down.
Stan and Michael gave an incredible presentation: even sharing a Bushman's travelling kit used in the Kalahari desert. Stan and Michael explained several of the Bushman's tools and weapons.
The Bushman kit, Stan figures is 75-100 years old, the container is leather from an antelope. It carries a bow and unusual arrows, hunting knife, a knobkierie - not pictured but like a carved wood bang on the head thing - resembling a golf club used to finish off a large antelope after the poisoned arrow's venom starts taking effect, Bushman sandals above which saw a lot of wear in the Kalahari. A flyswitch from a wildebeest tail, a carved container that once held poisonous beetle larvae to dip in their arrow heads. Also, at campfires in the Kalahari Bushmen made music by filling beads, broken ostrich shells, seed pods and coccoons into rattle shakers.
Today, of the surviving 150-200,000 Bushmen in South Africa, Stan would call no more than 200 of them nomadic. Who would dig for water if there's a spigot he asks. Arguments to keep that nomadic way of life in all it's aspects would be a sentence in present day, Stan added, discounting the old colonial view of the noble savage. Stan bought the Bushman kit forty years ago after visiting a curio shop in Capetown where he'd met an Afrikaans mercenary. Later in Jburg the mercenary sold him the kit and intimated he'd taken a large vehicle and drove thru Central African areas picking up artifacts. A genuine piece normally handed down in the tribe could be bartered by Europeans for a bottle of scotch or handful of bills. Priceless artifacts which cost the white man nothing. Michael and Stan feel ambivalent about the art they've collected and have wondered whether it's better to bring it back where it belongs or donate to a museum - but ask themselves would the art be appreciated or would people care?
There's a link to all this and more at:

But over capuchino and espresso I asked these busy boys what it's been like on the road with this book tour, their thoughts, any philosophy or world shaking insights they'd like to share. I put them on the spot.
So in answer to the first question Stan replied about their 20 city Midwest and West coast tour, 'Exciting, exhilerating tiring and expensive.' Michael's response was 'The Capuchino's are good here.'
Now almost at the end of their tour Michael - an avid birder - is looking forward to Kakadu, a National park in Northern Australia after this. He says he's earned some R + R without cell phones or the web. Stan's going to back to South Africa and straight into bush. Sounds like they're going incomunicado. Or looking for a story.
Cara - Tuesday


  1. That was one first-rate reporting job! I felt as if I were there dodging arrows and Capuchino with you.

    From the way you tell it, there should be no doubt that the Bushman's kit is far better served in the hands of Michael and Stanley than sitting in any museum, lost and unappreciated by all but those who already know about that sort of thing.

    They're doing more to bring the history of their part of the world to life than any repository of artifacts and deserve to keep their tools.

  2. Why wasn't I there? I'm only 380 miles south. Wish I'd been paying more attention.

    Of course, I do have a book to finish and it's one that someone with the initials JG is being very patient and understanding about, which of course increases the pressure tremendously.

  3. Thanks Jeffrey. Stan and Michael made the Kalahari alive and of course Det Kubu and you're right about them spreading the culture!
    Tim - you're forgiven JG takes precedence before all others. We hear and obey, at least try to.
    We had a lovely Japanese meal after, did I forget to say? Cara

  4. I'm looking forward to my trip to Africa, thanks to Stan and Mike. Seeing those sandals evokes all kinds of images of walking, heat and a very different landscape than what I'm used to. So interesting.

  5. A genuine piece normally handed down in the tribe could be bartered by Europeans for a bottle of scotch or handful of bills.