Sunday, 15 June 2014
Half desert, half scrub, and wholly unpleasant, the Arfanarf Desert is a wasteland in the extreme northeast of the Leech Coast. The desert is inhabited by a tribe known as the Doowadidi: a bitter collectivity of nomads who have an abundance of only three things: sand, shrubs, and resentment. The second of these has become central to Doowadiddi society. Too poor to afford camels, but too proud to dispense with the principle of raiding that is the foundation of warrior-societies in surrounding provinces, the Doowadiddi have been forced to substitute camels with shrubs to produce what is surely one of the saddest ‘rite of passage’ rituals in tribal history: ‘shrub rustling.’ Since shrubs neither move very fast; nor do they tend to have much of a bite; nor, since their milk yield is generally poor, does any other tribe actually want them, the rustling of shrubs itself tends to be substantially less dangerous to the tribesmen than their preparatory warm-up routine. Noted French ethnographer Oscar Foxtrotte noted that as ethnographic spectacle shrub rustling was ‘a bit dull to watch; pretty merde, really’.