Long before the social justice movements of today, humans were engaged in a living experiment in equality. Our common origins as egalitarian hunter-gatherers challenge the idea of human society as inherently selfish and competitive. The Hadza, some of the last remaining hunter-gatherers on the planet, provide insight into our past, and how we might imagine our future at a time when a reimagining is desperately needed.
The Hadza are living as they have for tens of thousands of years in one of the most iconic landscapes in the world, the savannahs and grasslands of Northern Tanzania. With a unique language, an egalitarian culture, and expert knowledge about their environment, the Hadza continue today in the region where modern humans evolved over 100,000 years ago. Although they have lost 90% of their land in the last 50 years, they are one of the few remaining sources of valuable direct knowledge of how humans lived for most of our time on earth – sustainably, and with equality for all regardless of gender, age, or ability. The Hadza are an important example for our present, and a people who are also our best hope for a continuing tie to our past. What can this joyful, just and sustainable society teach us about how to live now?
Award-winning documentarians and academics Jon Cox, Katrin Redfern, and Andrew Stern have produced a multimedia exhibit documenting the Hadza tribe of Tanzania. The exhibit presents Hadza daily life, culture, and expertise through photography, an immersive soundscape, text and artifacts.
The exhibit has four main components:
Text Element – Leveling Mechanisms
The Hadza are one of the few remaining sources of valuable direct knowledge of how humans lived for most of our time on earth – with equality for all regardless of gender, age, or ability. To explore this, the exhibit is organized around engaging text that applies anthropologist James Woodburn's research on leveling mechanisms to the Hadza, in particular:
Mobility and Flexibility–
Relationships between people emphasize sharing and mutuality but do not involve long-term binding commitments and patterns of dependency.
Direct Access to Food and Resources–
People are not dependent on specific other people for access to basic requirements.
Demand sharing is the enforced social expectation that all must be shared.
No one is able to exercise constant and permanent authority over a group and most decisions are essentially individual in nature, while taking the well-being of the community into account.
Sanctions on Accumulation–
Individuals have few personal possessions and appear unwilling to accumulate more. This is the result of a powerful cultural norm and expectation about the inappropriateness of an individual owning a large amount of personal possessions.
The exhibit incorporates 37 large-format mounted and framed photographs. All proceeds raised from sales go to the Dorobo Fund to secure land rights for the Hadza.
The exhibit includes an immersive soundscape recorded in the field, featuring the Great Migration of the Serengeti, the endangered language of the Hadza, and sounds of daily tribal life.
An Endangered People
The Hadza face grave challenges to their way of life.
In the last several decades the Hadza have lost 90% of their ancestral lands. Their homeland in the Yaeda Valley, which as recently as 30 years ago teemed with animals to rival any National Park, now holds only fragments of past herds. When the wildlife is gone, so too will be the Hadza culture.
The Dorobo Fund has been working alongside the Hadza to secure the first ever communal land title issued in Tanzania. Since then, additional boundaries have been set up to secure Hadza communal rights to live on, manage and use their ancestral lands in perpetuity. Every year almost 12,000 trees are saved from being cut down through the actions of the community. This amounts to 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year being prevented from going into the atmosphere.
Host the Hadza Exhibit – As well as an educational tool, the exhibit raises money to support the Dorobo Fund in their continuing efforts to promote the social and ecological well-being of the Hadza and their land. All funds raised through photography and book sales go directly to support their work. The exhibit is currently touring – please get in touch if you have a space interested in hosting it!