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The Hadza – lessons we can learn from their way of life

PE3K1J The Hadza people are click-speaking people, hunter gatherers, living in the region of Lake Eyasi, Tanzania. There are perhaps only 200 of them still l
Boyd Norton / Alamy Stock Photo
  • PE3KBJ The Hadza people are click-speaking people, hunter gatherers, living in the region of Lake Eyasi, Tanzania. There are perhaps only 200 of them still l
    Boyd Norton / Alamy Stock Photo

Explore the 200+ Hadza collection here.

In a world where people are perpetually connected, and everything happens at lightning speed, it’s easy to forget what life was like when things didn’t have to happen immediately. We’ve become so accustomed to instant gratification that we now have to train ourselves to enjoy delayed gratification. It’s no wonder that so many people find life so exhausting as we constantly dash from task to task.

We don’t seem to want to confront this never-ending chase. Instead, we make excuses and utilise a myriad of coping mechanisms from an evening tipple to regular meditation sessions – talk about addressing the symptom rather than the problem! Practically all meditation teachers encourage us to keep life simple. If you’ve forgotten what that looks like, perhaps a real-life example might help because sadly, it may not be long before we can refer to this living example of mindfulness – the Hadza people.

Based around Lake Eyasi in Tanzania, the Hadza (also sometimes referred to as Hadzabe) are one of the last nomadic hunter-gatherers. It is believed that they have occupied this area for thousands of years with little change to their lifestyle until more recently when they occasionally use scrap metal to make arrowheads. Unfortunately, their territory is now being invaded physically by pastoralists and culturally with attempts to settle them through Christianity or farming. There are just over a thousand Hadza people living in Tanzania, but only a quarter of them live exclusively through their traditional lifestyle and diet of foraging and hunting.

Over a period of several years, Alamy photographer Boyd Norton had the opportunity to spend some time with the Hadza and follow them on their hunts. It was often difficult for Boyd to keep up as they skip through the bush fearlessly. Their bodies bear scars caused by this hostile environment; if it’s not scuffles with wild animals then it’s the thorny flora.

It appears that nothing seems to faze them. Boyd confirms as he reminisces: “One time, they used a smoking bundle of grass and stuck it in a hive to subdue the bees.”

Did it work?

“It didn’t subdue the bees very much,” Boyd laughs. They were stung a lot, but it didn’t seem to bother them so it must have done something.

One wonders how they’ve thrived for so long in such a harsh and barren environment. They don’t have any structures for refuge either as they are nomadic – an overhanging rock is often enough protection. It’s ironic then that it’s other humans that threaten the existence of the Hadza most; not the hungry lions or the venomous black mambas.

Perhaps the Hadza’s kind, nonchalant nature is being taken advantage of as Boyd tells me that they’re “very friendly, open and happy people”. They have a carefree attitude to life where there is no concept of time and decisions are often made abruptly.  For example, there is no such thing as dinnertime. Is the group hungry? Yes? Let’s go and hunt. No? Let’s just sit and regale in stories for a little longer then. I suppose that’s one way to be more mindful. It’s difficult to get lost or worried about upcoming plans if you don’t have any future plans.

It’s a fascinating way to live that seems not only harmonious with nature but also harmonious with their souls and wellbeing. After all, what’s more mindful than just doing what your body tells you to do? There are plenty of teachings we can learn here but we wanted to highlight three important lessons from the Hadza way of life.

Be in the moment

The Hadza never seem to be concerned with tomorrow’s problems or yesterday’s failures. Simply focusing on the here and now is the mindful way.

Structure and structures do not always equate to stability

Whether it’s a shelter to protect them from the elements or a routine so that you know what you’re doing in an hour, the Hadza have no need for either. They have thrived in Tanzania for thousands of years by trusting their gut instinct, confidently making impulsive decisions and being comfortable with not knowing what is on the agenda for tomorrow or next month. Don’t sell the house though. You might need that.

Nature is a place of refuge, not of hostility (if you know how to tame it)

There have been many attempts to colonise and settle the Hadza people. Some have been relocated to government-built housing and enrolled at local school. This worked for some, but not for all. Ultimately, there are many who question the value of these efforts. Is life really better for them in the modern world? Many Hadza believe life is better living freely in the bush rather than dashing from task to task in the city.

So next time you feel overwhelmed by life, just take a second and think of the Hadza way.

Are you planning to cover a story on the unique Hadza people? There’s no need to dash about looking for unique, authentic imagery on this occasion as we’ve curated the perfect Hadza lightbox to save you time.

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