The Bushmen, known for their stamina, may sometimes have to pursue their prey for a great distance before the animal finally drops, ready for a kill. They are superb trackers and may follow a herd for many days before getting close enough to use bow and arrow. After such a kill, the whole group joins in the feast, singing and dancing in a trance-like ritual around the fire. When game is scarce, the group splits up into smaller parties to search for food. In severe, prolonged droughts the women chew the bark of a particular tree which acts as contraceptive, so preventing an increase in the number of mouths to feed. Snakes, lizards and even scorpions are eaten.

To provide liquid in dry areas and for times of drought, the San store water in ostrich shells, which they bury deep below the sandy desert surface. They recover the shells with uncanny accuracy. Skin carosses, loin cloths and aprons are the San's only adornments. Their semi- nomadic life makes it impossible to possess anything that is not easy to carry. Their shelters are built of sticks and form roughly a circle, 150mm high. Some clover the sticks with mats woven from reeds.

The clan system of the Khoi was somewhat more regulated than that of the San. Each group had a chief. Their dwellings were beehive-shaped huts made with pliable sticks. Long mats, the strips sewn together by the women covered the frame, leaving an opening at either end. Doors made of a narrower mat to roll up or down was hung over these openings. The huts could be dismantled quickly and transported on the back of oxen as they moved on. These mat-covered huts can still be seen in Namaqualand.

The Khoi (Hottentots) are much like the San in appearance, but slightly taller. The essential difference between the two peoples is in their respective traditional lifestyles. Originally both semi-nomadic, the Khoi kept flocks of sheep and herds of oxen. Some planted crops and established semi-permanent settlements. They developed the craft of pottery making.


The KhoiSan Today

The view of the KhoiSan, has always been through European eyes since Europeans have a long tradition of recording written history, and it is easier for people to reference this information.

The first travellers to Africa found people who were very different from themselves. So different in fact that the Europeans had no difficulty in describing them as "savages" or cannibals". An image of the Khoi and San was created by Europeans that lasted for centuries.

The Europeans never gave any value to their superior ability to deal with the African environment even though this knowledge enabled the early colonists to adapt to the landscape as they trekked beyond the settlement of Cape Town. Their ideology of superiority and value system based on wealth, made it impossible for them to accept the Khoikhoi as equals.

Today there are less than 100,000 San left in Southern African with more than half of them living in Botswana. To a large extent they are excluded from schools and from the systems of government, politics and economy. Infrastructure has improved and more people are moving into the areas the San once had for their own exclusive use.

They are now in a desperate struggle for survival

Knowing that I am khoisan, stirs something deep inside of me....and it's powerful. I know that we as a nation WILL rise up...we are the missing piece of the puzzle to ensure that this country can indeed be a success. We have to acknowledge who we are and not run away from our roots. It's amazing that history, as we've been taught in text books, doesn't say much about the beautiful khoisan people....their wars....their art ...their songs... their very nature...a proud people who could never be enslaved. We have been lost for too long, but slowly we are becoming powerful as more "coloureds" realise their true roots. RISE UP and BE PROUD.




Who are they?
The 'Bushmen' are the oldest inhabitants of southern Africa, where they have lived for at least 20,000 years. Their home is in the vast expanse of the Kalahari desert. There are many different Bushman peoples - they have no collective name for themselves, and the terms 'Bushman', 'San', 'Basarwa' (in Botswana) and so on are used variously. Most of those which are widely understood are imposed by outsiders and have some pejorative sense; many now use and accept the term 'Bushmen'. They speak a variety of languages, all of which incorporate 'click' sounds represented in writing by symbols such as ! or /.

How do they live?
The Bushmen are hunter-gatherers, who for thousands of years supported themselves in the desert through these skills. They hunt - mainly various kinds of antelope - but their daily diet has always consisted more of the fruits, nuts and roots which they seek out in the desert. They make their own temporary homes from wood that they gather. Many Bushmen who have been forced off their lands now live in settlements in areas that are unsuitable for hunting and gathering - they support themselves by growing some food, or by working on ranches.

What problems do they face?
The Bushmen had their homelands invaded by cattle herding Bantu tribes from around 1,500 years ago, and by white colonists over the last few hundred years. From that time they faced discrimination, eviction from their ancestral lands, murder and oppression amounting to a massive though unspoken genocide, which reduced them in numbers from several million to 100,000. Today, although all suffer from a perception that their lifestyle is 'primitive' and that they need to be made to live like the majority cattle-herding tribes, specific problems vary according to where they live. In South Africa, for example, the !Khomani now have most of their land rights recognised, but many other Bushman tribes have no land rights at all.

The Gana (G//ana) and Gwi (G/wi) tribes in Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve are among the most persecuted. Far from recognising their ownership rights over the land they have lived on for thousands of years, the Botswana government has in fact forced almost all of them off it. The harassment began in 1986, and the first forced removals were in 1997. Those that remained faced torture, drastic restrictions in their hunting rights, and routine harassment. In early 2002, this harassment intensified, accompanied by the destruction of the Bushmen's water pump, the draining of their existing water supplies into the desert, and the banning of hunting and gathering. Almost all were forced out by these tactics, but a large number have since returned, with many more desperate to do so.

Information kindly provided by Survival International