San Add New Dimension to Archery

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Five San men are participating in the World Field Archery Championship currently under way near Windhoek. New Era took a trip to see how it went.

By Catherine Sasman

WINDHOEK

“You have to read the white dot,” says Kxoa //Xarie, as he pulls out his arrows that have landed on the butt. “It is not as easy as hunting for game.”

Rabbie !Amace, with the score board hanging from his hip, lifts it up and enters the scores, commenting on how each of the men has done. So far, //Xarie has a comfortable lead.

At the next stop, shooting has to be done from 20 yards from the target. The men take aim with their large wooden bows and shoot. Most miss, as the arrows fly past the target. If one hits the target, there is an excited exclaim and shouting from the rest.

“We are not accustomed to these bows,” said !Amace. Just two days before the event, the men had to exchange their bows with stronger and more sophisticated ones imported from South Africa. Theirs proved too weak against the black top of the target.

“Our bows are made of stick and the string is made of eland hide,” said Dam Kxao. “It is still difficult to handle this bow.”

They walk off to the next target. This time, the distance is 20 yards. Again, only //Xarie shoots into the white circle. The others shoot around the circle, or completely off the target altogether.

“Our way of shooting is nicer,” said /Kunta !Amace. “It is nicer to shoot for a kill; for meat.”

The men do not take long to aim. They raise the bow, place the arrow against the string and align it against the wooden bridge of the bow, stretch the string, and goes ‘pang!’

“When you hunt for game there is no time; you cannot wait too long,” said /Goa N!aici as he watched his arrows fly over the target.

But as the days progressed, the San participants found it easier to handle their new bows and arrows with colourful flies at the rear end.

“Our traditional arrows are sharp-pointed,” explained N!aici. “These arrows are blunt.”
In the competition, each archer shoots four arrows at the target and gets a five-point when it lands in the white dots. There are 28 targets in each circuit, with distances from 10 yards to 80 yards.

Local and international archery competitors are shooting in 12 different categories, or styles. The San participants are shooting in a category that has been created for them, because their equipment is not up to par with the carefully engineered and highly sophisticated equipment of the other members.

“They won’t shoot so well,” was Zelda Smith’s opinion on the performance of the San men on the second day of the event. Smith, from the England team, has been practicing archery for the last 22 years.

“Their bows don’t shoot far. When they go hunting they have to go close.”
On the fourth day of the competition the San shooters still trailed behind the other archers, but there was an acknowledgement from the other competitors that the San participants have picked up their game.

Despite the limited reach of their bare bows, outclassed by the other bows in the competition, the San shooters have ‘out-shot’ some of the world competitors. The highest scorer in the San group, //Xarie, tallied 943 points, and the four others by end of yesterday, comfortably beat the scores from international competitors, such as a 339 score from Estonia, or a 204 from Germany, or less.

“It is incredible,” said Namibian archery champion Mar??????’??

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