Photo by Robert Semeniuk
A complete exhibition of Robert Semeniuk's photographs of the San can be seen in the gallery at thetyee.ca.
LENNAH NANKE MOTHIMIT, AGE THIRTY-EIGHT, VISITS WITH HER SISTER ANNA in the resettlement camp at D’Kar, Botswana. Nanke contracted AIDS in 1999 when she was raped. She is one of the few women in D’Kar who is open about her HIV status. She is currently estranged from her mother, ostracized by the church and abandoned by the fathers of her children. “My mother is embarrassed and doesn’t want to face thinking about the time when I lay down,” she says. Nanke makes money by selling homemade beer and cleaning a foreign aid worker’s house once a week. She has two grown daughters, and two babies who live with her in her one-room tin shack. She laughs when asked where the fathers are. The monthly government food ration of meali meal, oil and oranges is never enough.
Nanke is a member of the San people of the Kalahari, who have been displaced by the government of Botswana from their homeland in the Kalahari Desert, which they have occupied for thirty thousand years. The San Bushmen are the oldest culture on the planet. Today cattle ranching, diamond mining, cultural genocide, aids, tuberculosis and malaria have driven them to the edge of extinction. Nearly 40 percent of everyone in Botswana between sixteen and forty-nine years of age is HIV positive. Ten years from now, the average life expectancy will have fallen from forty-seven to twenty-seven. By 2010 more than half the children in Botswana will be orphans.