Happy Mother's Day
|!U tightens the strings of a //gwashi, a musical instrument played by most !Kung. Norna looks on from her lap.
An image from the 2004 exhibition Regarding the Kalahari brings to mind the bond between mother and child, evident in cultures past, present, near, and far.
The exhibition examined the first chapter in the relationship between the Marshall family and the Ju/'hoansi !Kung—a relationship that lasted over a half a century and endures still. Through portraits, the exhibit documented the !Kung on the brink of cultural change and offered a photographic record of the Marshalls' multifaceted perspectives on the !Kung.
In 1950, Laurence Marshall, retired co-founder of the Raytheon Company, and seventeen-year-old John Marshall embarked on the first of numerous Peabody Museum expeditions to the Kalahari Desert where they encountered Ju/'hoansi !Kung, still living as nomadic hunter-gatherers in what is now Namibia.
Arrangements were made to return the next year along with Lorna Marshall, an English teacher, and their college-aged daughter Elizabeth Marshall [Thomas]. For eleven years, the Marshall family--Lorna, Laurence, and their children, Elizabeth and John--documented the way of life of the indigenous Ju/'hoansi !Kung of the Kalahari desert in southern Africa. Unschooled in anthropology and in photography, the Marshalls literally trained themselves in the field. Lorna and Elizabeth conducted extensive ethnography, writing numerous books and articles.
The Marshall family took numerous photographs of the child shown above, !Ungka Norna, who was named for Lorna by her father (the !Kung do not pronounce the letter "l"). Lorna Marshall had a great interest in children and child rearing.
"Women...take their children with them when they go to gather," she wrote, "and have the principal care of them throughout the days all the years of their childhood."
--Adapted from exhibition text by Ilisa Barbash