Bushmen children, Namibia
|Regions with significant populations|
|Botswana (55,000), Namibia (27,000), South Africa (10,000), Angola (<5,000)|
|various Khoisan languages|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Khoikhoi, Xhosa, Basters, Griqua|
The indigenous people of Southern Africa, whose territory spans most areas of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola, are variously referred to as Bushmen, San, Sho, Basarwa, Kung, or Khwe (see the Nomenclature section for more details). The Bushmen are part of the Khoisan group. Though related to the traditionally pastoral Khoikhoi, they were traditionally hunter-gatherers. Starting in the 1950s, and lasting through the 1990s, they switched to farming as a result of government-mandated modernization programs as well as the increased risks of a hunting and gathering lifestyle in the face of technological development.
There is a significant linguistic difference between the northern Bushmen living between Okavango (Botswana) and Etosha (Namibia), extending into southern Angola on the one hand and the southern group in the central Kalahari towards the Molopo, who are the last remnant of the previously extensive indigenous San of South Africa.
The San have provided a wealth of information for the fields of anthropology and genetics, even as their lifestyles change. One broad study of African genetic diversity completed in 2009 found that the San people were among the five populations with the highest measured levels of genetic diversity among the 121 distinct African populations sampled. The San are one of fourteen known extant "ancestral population clusters" (from which all known modern humans descended).
- 1 Nomenclature
- 2 Society
- 3 Genetic traits
- 4 Ancestral land conflict with Botswana
- 5 Hoodia traditional knowledge agreement
- 6 Representation in mass media
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The terms San, Khwe, Sho, Bushmen and Basarwa have all been used to refer to the hunter-gatherer peoples of southern Africa. Each of these terms has a problematic history, as they have been used by outsiders to refer to them, often with pejorative connotations. The individual groups identify by names such as Juǀʼhoansi and ǃKung (the punctuation characters representing different click consonants), and most call themselves by the term Bushmen when referring to themselves collectively.[dead link]
The different San language groups of Namibia met in late 1996 and agreed to allow the general term San to designate them externally. This term was historically applied by their ethnic relatives and historic rivals, the Khoikhoi. This term means outsider in the Nama language, and was derogatory because it distinguished the Bushmen from what the Khoikhoi called themselves, namely, the First People. Western anthropologists adopted San extensively in the 1970s, where it remains preferred in academic circles. The term Bushmen is widely used, but opinions vary on whether it is appropriate because it is sometimes viewed as pejorative.
In South Africa, the term San has become favored in official contexts, and is included in the blazon of the new national coat-of-arms; Bushman is considered derogatory by many South Africans, regardless of their race. Angola does not have an official term for the San, but they are sometimes referred to as Bushmen, Kwankhala, or Bosquímanos (the Portuguese term for Bushmen). In Lesotho they're referred to as Baroa, which is where the Sesotho name for south, Boroa, comes from. Neither Zambia nor Zimbabwe have official terms, although in the latter case the terms Amasili and Batwa are sometimes used.[dead link] In Botswana, the officially used term is Basarwa, where it is partially acceptable to some Bushmen groups, although Basarwa, a Tswana label meaning "Those that do not herd cattle", also has negative connotations. The term is a class 2 noun (as indicated by the "ba-" class marker), while an older class 6 variant, Masarwa, is now almost universally considered offensive. (See Noun class#Bantu languages for background.)
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2009)|
The Bushman kinship system reflects their interdependence as traditionally small mobile foraging bands. The kinship system is also comparable to the eskimo kinship system, with the same set of terms as in European cultures, but also uses a name rule and an age rule. The age rule resolves any confusion arising from kinship terms, as the older of two people always decides what to call the younger. Relatively few names circulate (approximately only 35 names per sex), and each child is named after a grandparent or another relative.
Children have no social duties besides playing, and leisure is very important to Bushmen of all ages. Large amounts of time are spent in conversation, joking, music, and sacred dances. Women have a high status in San society, are greatly respected, and may be leaders of their own family groups. They make important family and group decisions and claim ownership of water holes and foraging areas. Women are mainly involved in the gathering of food, but may also take part in hunting.
The most important thing in San life is water. Droughts can last many months and waterholes may dry up. When this happens, they use sip wells. To get water this way, a San scrapes a deep hole where the sand is damp. Into this hole is inserted a long hollow grass stem. An empty ostrich egg is used to collect the water. Water is sucked into the straw from the sand, into the mouth, and then travels down another straw into the ostrich egg.
Traditionally, the San were an egalitarian society. Although they had hereditary chiefs, their authority was limited. The bushmen made decisions among themselves by consensus, with women treated as relatively equal. San economy was a gift economy, based on giving each other gifts regularly rather than on trading or purchasing goods and services.
Villages range in sturdiness from nightly rain shelters in the warm spring (when people move constantly in search of budding greens), to formalized rings, wherein people congregate in the dry season around permanent waterholes. Early spring is the hardest season: a hot dry period following the cool, dry winter. Most plants are still dead or dormant, and supplies of autumn nuts are exhausted. Meat is particularly important in the dry months when wildlife cannot range far from the receding waters.
Women gather fruit, berries, tubers, bush onions, and other plant materials for the band's consumption. Ostrich eggs are gathered, and the empty shells are used as water containers. Insects provide perhaps 10% of animal proteins consumed, most often during the dry season. Depending on location, the Bushmen consume 18 to 104 species, including grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, moths, butterflies, and termites.
Women's traditional gathering gear is simple and effective: A hide sling, a blanket, a cloak called a kaross to carry foodstuffs, firewood, smaller bags, a digging stick, and perhaps a smaller version of the kaross to carry a baby.
Men hunt in long, laborious tracking excursions. They kill their game using arrows and spears tipped in diamphotoxin, a slow-acting arrow poison produced by beetle larvae of the genus Diamphidia. With this the Bushmen hunt antelope (especially the common eland, kudu and dik-dik), deer, and African Buffalo. The hunters offer thanks to the animal's spirit after it is killed. The liver was eaten only by men and hunters, because it was thought to contain poison unsafe for women.
In the 1990s, a portion of the population switched to livestock farming as a result of government-mandated modernization programs, as well as the increased risks of a hunting and gathering lifestyle in the face of technological development.[vague]
Historical evidence shows that certain Bushmen communities have always lived in the desert regions of the Kalahari. However, nearly all other Bushmen communities in southern Africa were eventually forced into this region. The Kalahari Bushmen remained in poverty where their richer neighbours denied them rights to the land. Before long, in both Botswana and Namibia, they found their territory drastically reduced.
Various Y-chromosome studies showed that the San carry some of the most divergent (oldest) Y-chromosome haplogroups. These haplogroups are specific sub-groups of haplogroups A and B, the two earliest branches on the human Y-chromosome tree.
Mitochondrial DNA studies also showed evidence that the San carry high frequencies of the earliest haplogroup branches in the human mitochondrial DNA tree. The most divergent (oldest) mitochondrial haplogroup, L0d, has been identified at its highest frequencies in the southern African San groups.
In a study published in March 2011, Brenna Henn and colleagues found that the ǂKhomani Bushmen, as well as the Sandawe and Hadza peoples of Tanzania, were the most genetically diverse of any living humans studied. This high degree of genetic diversity hints at the origin of anatomically modern humans.
Ashley Montagu noted that Bushmen have the following neotenous (childlike) traits compared to Caucasoids: large brain, light skin pigment, less hair, round-headed, bulging forehead, small cranial sinuses, flat roof of the nose, small face, small mastoid processes, wide eye separation, median eye fold, and short stature.
Ancestral land conflict with Botswana
Since the mid-1990s, the central government of Botswana has implemented a relocation policy, aimed at moving the Bushmen out of their ancestral land on and near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) into newly created settlements, such as New Xade. The government's official reason for adopting the policy is as follows:
"Over time it has become clear that many residents of the CKGR already were or wished to become settled agriculturists, raising crops and tending livestock as opposed to hunting-gathering when the reserve was established in 1961
"This is the fundamental reason for government to relocate the CKGR residents."
"In fact, hunting-gathering had become obsolete to sustain their living conditions. These agricultural land uses are not compatible with preserving wildlife resources and not sustainable to be practiced in the Game Reserve.
"Government's policy has at all times been based upon the consent of those concerned, at no time has government comtemplated the use of force."
However, a 2006 court ruling confirmed that residents had been forcibly and unconstitutionally removed.
Opponents to the relocation policy claim that the government's intent is to clear the area – an area the size of Denmark — for the lucrative tourist trade and diamond mining. The government's official web site states that although exploration had taken place, it concluded that diamond mining would not be viable and that the relocation policy had nothing to do with mining.
In 2005, John Simpson of BBC News described New Xade as suffering from drunkenness and sexually transmitted diseases, saying, "When the Botswana government takes foreign guests to New Xade on fact-finding trips, it shows them the showcase schools and clinics which have been built for the Bushmen. The VIP buses take a detour in order to miss the shebeens [bars]." Simpson said he suspected the relocations were partly motivated by plans for diamond mining.
In a 2005 embassy communication released in 2011, United States Ambassador to Botswana Joseph Huggins condemned the forced evictions, saying: "While it is probably the case that two-three years on since the move, the greatest trauma is past, it is also clear that people have been dumped in economically absolutely unviable situations without forethought, and without follow-up support. The lack of imagination displayed on the part of the GOB [Government of Botswana] is breathtaking. The GOB views New Xade as similar to many sites of rural poverty, deserving no special treatment. But the special tragedy of New Xade's dependent population is that it could have been avoided."
A spokesperson for the CKGR Bushmen, Jumanda Gakelebone, claimed that the government refused to provide them with a polling station for the 2009 elections and that in response, the Bushmen would boycott the 2011 census. He said the lack of polling stations "showed that the government does not recognise us as a people. So why count us?"
On 13 December 2006, the Bushmen won a historic ruling in their long-running court case against the government. According to the Bushmen's lawyer Gordon Bennett, "Nobody thought the Bushmen had any rights" before their court victory. "Nobody even cared."
By a 2–1 majority, the court ruled the refusal to allow the Basarwa into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) without a permit, and the refusal to issue special game licences to allow the Bushmen to hunt, was "unlawful and unconstitutional". It also found that the Bushmen were "forcibly and wrongly deprived of their possessions" by the government. The court did not compel the government to provide services, such as water, to any Bushmen who returned to the reserve. As of 2006, more than 1,000 Bushmen intended to return to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, one of Africa's largest protected nature reserves.
However, the government interpreted the ruling narrowly, and only limited numbers of Bushmen have been allowed to return to this land. In April 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) criticised Botswana's government for not allowing certain Bushmen to return.
High Court appeal
On 27 January 2011, the Bushmen won an appeal against the government in the Botswana High Court after they were initially prohibited from accessing drinking water inside the Reserve through bore holes. Barrister Gordon Bennett represented the Bushmen in court as the judges declared the Botswana government guilty of ‘degrading treatment’ and described the case as ‘a harrowing story of human suffering and despair’. Furthermore, the Government was ordered to pay the costs of the Bushmen's appeal.
The Botswana government's official Facebook page states in several 2013 posts that "contrary to some media reports the Government has consistently provided the residents with water. When the borehole was temporarily shut down last year water was trucked in until the borehole was restored."
On 24 May 2013, Survival International reported that some Bushmen in Ranyane were slated to be evicted from their ancestral land in order to create a wildlife corridor known as the Western Kgalagadi Conservation Corridor. On May 28, Botswana's High Court had ruled that the eviction be suspended until 18 June, when the case would return to court. Botswana government representative Jeff Ramsay denied any forced eviction plans. The official Facebook page of the Botswana government also denied any such plans. A Survival International campaigner said, "I don’t know how the government can say [...] that they are not planning to evict them when the Ranyane Bushmen are taking the government to court to stop from being removed." The Director of Khwedom Council, Keibakile Mogodu, said, "We have been deliberating on the issue with government officials, yes I can confirm that government was due to relocate [six hundred] Basarwa on Monday, [May 27th]." A case was filed on the Bushmen's behalf.
On 5 June 2013, Survival International reported that government trucks had arrived on 4 June for the eviction. An 11 June 2013 post on the Botswana government's Facebook page stated that forty-six people, including some of Bushman ancestry, had been voluntarily moved from Ranyane to the Bere settlement, and reiterated, "[T]here is no merit to the allegations being mass-circulated to the media by the London based Survival International organisation, and their supporters at the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA), that the Government of Botswana is either forcibly removing people from Ranyane or defying a court order." A follow-up 14 June post stated that seventy-one people had moved to Bere. In an 18 June 2013 update, Survival International reported that the court had ruled in the Bushmen's favor. Along with the article, Survival International posted a photograph of the relocation trucks and a copy of the High Court order, which included the stipulation that "[t]he Applicants and members of the families shall not be removed from Ranyane less than 48 hours after those persons have informed the Applicants' Attorneys by telephone of their proposed removal." On the same day, a post on the Botswana government's Facebook page said, "This morning [attorneys] representing 12 Ranyane residents (Applicants) on one side and the Ghanzi Land Board, Ghanzi District Council and Ghanzi District Commissioner (Respondents) appeared in the Lobatse High Court, as a follow up to the Court's 28th May 2013 interdict barring the Applicants' supposed eviction from Ranyane [...] For its part the Government of Botswana has made its position clear that it has no intention of evicting the said applicants or for that matter relocating any others from the settlement against their will." It went on to quote the High Court order.
On 26 July 2013, Survival International reported that the Botswana government had placed the Bushmen's British attorney Gordon Bennett on a visa list, effectively preventing him from entering the country until he obtains a visa. Prior to this, Bennett has successfully represented the Botswana Bushmen in court three times. Bennett said, "The right to a fair trial normally includes the right to be represented by counsel of your choice. Not in Botswana, apparently -- or at least not if you sue the Government." A Botswana government Facebook post stated that the Department of Immigration had turned down Bennett's request for a visa, describing it as "submitted on short notice[.]" A follow-up Facebook post said that the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, the Honourable Edwin Batshu, defended this move as being "in the interest of national security." The trial began on 29 July.
On 6 August 2013, a Botswana government Facebook post announced that local government in the Ghanzi District had recently made plans to move Ranyane residents, and that the national government repudiated these plans.
Hoodia traditional knowledge agreement
Hoodia gordonii, used by the San Bushmen, was patented by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 1998, for its presumed appetite suppressing quality. A licence was granted to Phytopharm, for development of the active ingredient in the Hoodia plant, p57 (glycoside), to be used as a pharmaceutical drug for dieting. Once this patent was brought to the attention of the San, a benefit-sharing agreement was reached between them and the CSIR in 2003. This would award royalties to the San for the benefits of their indigenous knowledge. The San were represented by a regional organisation formed under San leadership, the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA).
This benefit-sharing agreement is one of the first to give royalties to the holders of traditional knowledge used for drug sales. The terms of the agreement are contentious, because of their apparent lack of adherence to the Bonn Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing, as outlined in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The San have yet to profit from this agreement, as P57 has still not yet been legally developed and marketed.
Representation in mass media
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The Bushmen of the Kalahari were first brought to the Western world's attention in the 1950s by South African author Laurens van der Post. In 1955, Van der Post was commissioned by the BBC to go to the Kalahari desert with a film crew in search of the Bushmen. The filmed material was turned into a very popular six-part television documentary a year later. Driven by a lifelong fascination with this "vanished tribe", Van der Post published a 1958 book about the same expedition, entitled The Lost World of the Kalahari. It was to be his most famous book. In 1961, he published The Heart of the Hunter, a narrative derived from 19th-century Bushmen stories by Wilhelm Bleek. Van der Post's work is largely discredited, as it is the subjective view of a European in the 1950s and 60s. His opinions branded the San as simple "children of Nature" or even "mystical ecologists".
John Marshall, the son of Harvard anthropologist Lorna Marshall, documented the lives of Bushmen in the Nyae Nyae region of Namibia over a more than 50-year period. His early film The Hunters, released in 1957, shows a giraffe hunt during the 1950s. The film Nǃai, the Story of a ǃKung Woman (1980) is the account of a woman who grew up while the Bushmen lived as autonomous hunter-gatherers, but who was later forced into a dependent life in the government-created community at Tsumkwe. A Kalahari Family (2002) is a five-part, six-hour series documenting 50 years in the lives of the Juǀʼhoansi of Southern Africa, from 1951 to 2000. Marshall was a vocal proponent of the Bushman cause throughout his life.
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (sister of John Marshall) wrote several books and numerous articles about the Bushmen, based in part on her experiences living with these people when their culture was still intact. The Harmless People, published in 1959 (revised in 1989), and The Old Way: A Story of the First People, published in 2006, are the two primary works.
The BBC series How Art Made the World compares San cave paintings from 200 years ago to Paleolithic European paintings that are 14,000 years old. Because of their similarities, the San works may illustrate the reasons for ancient cave paintings. In this programme, Nigel Spivey draws largely on the work of Professor David Lewis-Williams. Drawing parallels between modern hunter-gatherers in southern Africa (Bushmen) and the Americas, Lewis-Williams claims that healers, or ritual specialists, deliberately force themselves into a trance in which they travel to the spirit world. The visions they experience on these journeys of the mind are terrifying and complex, and the activity itself is undertaken for the good of the community. The Kalahari Bushmen go to the spirit world to entreat with their god Bihisabolo for the lives of the sick, to make rain, and to control the movements of the game animals.
Lewis-Williams claims that in the lightest stages of trance states, all humans have the capacity to see geometric shapes known as form constants. They are hard-wired in the brain. As the trance deepens, and the subject tries to make sense of the shapes, so they change into things which are governed by that person's particular culture. The geometries are found all over the world and throughout history. Coupled to this are experiences such as changing into animals: the rock art traditions of hunter-gatherers the world over – including Ice Age Europe – contain images of figures which are half human and half animal. Lewis-Williams claims that going into deep caves is likened to going into a deep trance. Some images in France and Spain are over 1 km into the caves. Native Americans would call this 'Vision Questing' — going to barely accessible places such as mountain tops to perform rock art making, the images likely derived from visions they had experienced at special ceremonies.
Spencer Wells' 2003 book The Journey of Man — in connection with National Geographic's Genographic Project — discusses a genetic analysis of the San and asserts their genetic markers were the first ones to split from those of the ancestors of the bulk of other Homo Sapiens Sapiens. The Bushmen's Y-chromosomal DNA haplogroup (type A) is one of the oldest, splitting off around 70,000 years ago from those found in the rest of humanity (type BT). Therefore, the Bushmen likely represent one of the oldest existing populations. Genetic markers present on the y chromosome are passed down through thousands of generations in a relatively pure form. The PBS documentary based on the book follows these markers throughout the world, demonstrating that all of humankind can be traced back to the African continent and that the San are one of the oldest and most genetically unadulterated remnants of humankind's ancient ancestors. More recent analysis suggests that the San may have been isolated from other original ancestral groups for as much as 100,000 years and later rejoined, re-integrating the human gene pool.
Films and music
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The 1980 comedy movie The Gods Must Be Crazy portrays a Kalahari Bushman tribe's first encounter with an artifact from the outside world (a Coke bottle). By the time this movie was made, the ǃKung had recently been forced into sedentary villages, and the Bushmen hired as actors were confused by the instructions to act out inaccurate exaggerations of their almost abandoned hunting and gathering life. The director of this movie, Jamie Uys, had also directed Lost in the Desert in 1969, in which a small boy, stranded in the desert, encounters a group of wandering Bushmen, who help him and then abandon him as a result of a misunderstanding created by the lack of a common language and culture. Coca-Cola sponsored a documentary on San hunting entitled The Great Dance: A Hunter's Story (2000) directed by Craig and Damon Foster.
John Marshall and Adrienne Miesmer documented the lives of the !Kung San people between the 1950s and 1978 in Nǃai, the Story of a ǃKung Woman. This film shows how the lives of the !Kung people, who lived for millennia as hunter gatherers, were forever changed when they were forced onto a reservation too small to support them.
South African film-maker Richard Wicksteed has produced a number of documentaries on San/Bushman culture, history and present situation; these include In God's Places/Iindawo ZikaThixo (1995) on the Bushman cultural legacy in the southern Drakensberg; Death of a Bushman (2002) on the murder of Bushman tracker Optel Rooi by South African police; The Will To Survive (2009) which covers the history and situation of Bushman communities in southern Africa today; and My Land is My Dignity (2009) on the San's epic land rights struggle in Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
"Eh Hee" by Dave Matthews Band was written as an evocation of the music and culture of the San. In a story told to the Radio City audience (an edited version of which appears on the DVD version of Live at Radio City), Matthews recalls hearing the music of the San and, upon asking his guide what the words to their songs were, being told that "there are no words to these songs, because these songs, we've been singing since before people had words". He goes on to describe the song as his "homage to meeting... the most advanced people on the planet".
The BBC's The Life of Mammals series includes video footage of an indigenous bushmen of the Kalahari desert undertaking a persistence hunt of a kudu through harsh desert conditions. It provides an illustration of how early man may have pursued and captured prey with minimal weaponry.
In Wilbur Smith's novel The Burning Shore (an installment in the Courtneys of Africa book series), the San people are portrayed through two major characters, O'wa and H'ani; Smith describes the Bushmen's struggles, history, and beliefs in great detail.
Tad Williams' epic Otherland series of novels features a South African Bushman named ǃXabbu, whom Williams confesses to be highly fictionalised, and not necessarily an accurate representation. In the novel, Williams invokes aspects of Bushmen mythology and culture.
In 2007, author David Gilman published The Devil's Breath, a novel partly based on the Bushmen. One of the main characters, a small bushman boy named ǃKoga, uses traditional bushman methods to help the character Max Gordon travel across Namibia.
In Peter Godwin's biography When A Crocodile Eats the Sun, he mentions his time spent with the San for an assignment. His title comes from the San's belief that a solar eclipse occurs when a crocodile eats the sun.
Laurens Van der Post's two novels, A Story Like The Wind (1972) and its sequel, A Far-Off Place (1974), are about a white boy encountering a wandering Bushman and his wife, and how the Bushmen's life and survival skills save the white teenagers' lives in a journey across the desert.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bushmen.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Bushmen.|
- Kalahari Peoples Fund
- Survival International
- I want 2 go home – Kgeikani Kweni (First People of the Kalahari)
- National Geographic
- Bleek and Lloyd Archive of ǀxam and ǃkun texts online
- Specimens of Bushmen folklore – tales collected by Bleek and Lloyd
- The San Trickster God meets the Ideology of the West: Exploring the Implications of Interpretation among San and European Relations in Southern Africa
- The myth of ritual origins? Ethnography, mythology and interpretation of San rock art by Dr Anne Solomon (South African Archaeological Bulletin, June 1997)
- The Kalahari Peoples Fund
- Scientific American – Offerings to a Stone Snake Provide the Earliest Evidence of Religion by J. R. Minkel 01/12/06
- Les bushmen, an excerpt of 'The Gods must be Crazy' narrated in French, on YouTube
- video of persistence hunting
- The Kuru Family of Organizations
- Sos bushmen: everything about the Bushmen. In several languages
- The San Bushmen of southern Africa
- Khwattu – South African based centre for preservation of the original SAN culture
- Photo gallery of Bushmen in Botswana
- Southern African Foragers on the Hunter-Gatherer Wiki of the Department of Anthropology at the Ohio State University
- Africa's Khoe-San were first to split from other humans