Voices of the Bushmen Panel Discussion

Following the screenings of Bushman's Secret and Legends of the Bushman on Sat 1 Nov at 6.00pm

In English, story and history are different words. In most other languages they are the same word. In the English speaking world we expect history to be about facts - facts which give order to how we think about our lives in relation to our past. Yet, storytelling is our history. It is the colour and chaos of images that shape the way we live now. It is our learning. It is our understanding of our world. Stories transport us out of the limits of that world. Stories inhabit every corner of our imagination. Stories bring magic and nature and the supernatural to our lives. Stories have no bounds and all things are possible. Yet stories bring an order, a moral code, a lesson to be learned and remind us all things on the earth and in the skies are connected. All stories embody a truth and to hear that truth, we must listen to the stories. Their narrative power is the secret of their survival down the centuries. To learn from the storytellers, we must give people an authentic voice.


The Bushmen are one of the oldest indigenous populations in the world. They lived for thousands of years as hunters and gatherers in the harsh environment of the Kalahari desert. Yet oppression, discrimination and dispossession have marked their lives. 'Visitors' to their traditional lands have become occupants and today the Bushmen live in small groups scattered over different countries in Southern Africa. They are most usually found as 'squatters' near towns, as labourers settled on the farms of big landowners, or in government-designated re-settlement camps, dependent on inadequate, inconsistent government hand-outs, unable to access or afford healthcare. They are losing their language. They have all but lost their voice. Yet their stories remain central to their healing and their sense of community and their identity and we have much to learn if we would simply listen.

Through the screenings of the two documentaries about the Bushmen of Southern Africa, the panel discussion will explore the (hi)story of the Bushmen as the try to find their authentic voice in the modern world. The panel will consider the relationship of Westerners with the Bushmen. What happens when we listen to their stories and hear their voice? What happens when we don't? The Bushmen are Africa and Africa is the Bushmen. Why then are we Westerners compelled to keep returning to a continent on which we have no claim? Are the Bushmen part of our (hi)story and healing?


The panel discussion will be chaired by Moragh Reid, Director of Positive Help, with panel members Ginger Mauney, a wildlife photographer and filmmaker and director of Legends of the Bushmen; Alan Barnard, Professor of Anthropology of Southern Africa at the University of Edinburgh and Honorary Consul of the Republic of Namibia for Scotland; and Sue Armstrong, a freelance writer and broadcaster who has written numerous articles and made feature programmes for BBC radio about the Bushmen.

The Bushmen focus has been organised in partnership with Positive Help, an Edinburgh-based HIV charity which helped establish a healthcare clinic in the Omaheke region of Namibia, working to ensure the Bushmen had access to health care and support.

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