Name: San, Sho, Barwa, Kung or Khwe. Generally known as Bushmen.
Living Area: most areas of
South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, and . Angola
Language: various Khoisan languages
These people were traditionally hunter-gatherers, part of the Khoisan group and are related to the traditionally pastoral Khoikhoi. 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 extensive autochthonous San of South Africa.
The Bushmen 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 the San people were among the five populations with the highest measured levels of genetic diversity among the 121 distinct African populations sampled.
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 Ju/'hoansi and !Kung (the punctuation characters representing different click consonants), and most call themselves by the term Bushmen when referring to themselves collectively.
The different San language groups of
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. Namibia
, 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 some groups. South Africa 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 Angola they're referred to as Baroa, which is where the Sesotho name for south, Boroa, comes from. Neither Lesotho Zambia nor have official terms, although in the latter case the terms Amasili and Batwa are sometimes used. In Zimbabwe , the officially used term is Basarwa, where it is partially acceptable to some Bushmen groups, although Basarwa, a Tswana label derived from Twa, also has negative connotations. Botswana
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 Western countries, but also employing 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 gender), 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 the 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 the lives of the San people is water. Droughts can last for many months and waterholes may dry up. When this happens, they use sip wells. To get water this way, a San will scrape a deep hole where the sand is damp. Into this hole will be put 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 did have hereditary chiefs, the chiefs' authority was limited. The bushmen instead made decisions among themselves by consensus, with women treated as relatively equal. In addition, the San economy was a gift economy, based on giving each other gifts on a regular basis 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 can't range far from the receding waters.
Bushmen women gather fruit, berries, tubers, bush onions, and other plant materials for the band's consumption. The eggs of ostriches are gathered, and the empty shells are used as water containers. In addition to plants, insects furnish perhaps ten percent 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.
The 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.
Known for their endurance hunting:
Bushmen men traditionally hunted using poison arrows and spears in laborious, long excursions. Kudu, antelope, deer, dikdik, and buffalo were important game animals. The Bushmen offered thanks to the animal's spirit after it had been killed. The liver was eaten only by men and hunters, because it was thought to contain a 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.
© Photo and text: Wikipedia
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