Looking for Life


At the beginning of March, I returned to New Xade for an extended visit.

Someone in the community had recently passed away, and the funeral was scheduled for the same weekend I arrived. The day before the ceremony, I went to the cemetery to help dig the grave. A dozen of us took a couple of shovels and picks and, after marking the appropriate spot, started digging, rotating out when our arms or backs wearied. We started at two in the afternoon and finished just before sundown.

The grave was two and a half meters deep, well above my head. Unfortunately, at some point in the process, I threw out my back. I still managed to attend the funeral, but filming using the shoulder mount was out of the question, at least for a couple of days.

Initially, I was bummed, but people had appreciated my participation. During the digging, a couple of guys laughed. “Lekgoa – the white man – works hard,” they said. Others mentioned that I was the first white to help them dig a grave. My honest desire to be a part of their lives built trust, which paved the way for productive fieldwork despite the injury.

Throwing out my back allowed me to refocus my efforts. Rather than shooting observational material, I had to rely on the tripod, which meant conducting interviews.

I traveled around the community and set up meetings with members of the older generation, people who had been born and raised in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve – those who remember the hunting and gathering lifestyle and miss it dearly. At first, a lot of them had rejected the idea of being interviewed, but now they were more open.

They told me beautiful stories about how their mothers traversed the bush in search of wild potatoes —> Read More