What does '!Khwa ttu' mean?
In 2000, San representatives at the annual general assembly of the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA) named the San Culture and Education Centre ‘!Khwa ttu’, which means ‘water pan’ in the extinct |Xam language. (WIMSA 2001: 28)
How many San people live in Southern Africa?
According to various sources approximately 100 000 San are currently living in southern Africa. The estimation for each country, where San communities live reads as follows:
|6 700||South Africa|
|2 800||Zimbabwe and Zambia|
Total: 100 000
Is it acceptable to use the term Bushman?
At various occasions the San have expressed their wish to be addressed by their particular names such as ‡Khomani, !Xóõ, !Xun, Khwe, Ju|’hoansi, etc.
Since the 1990s, both the San and academics began to use the term San more frequently. ''The clearest consensus on this issue emerged at the Common Access to Development Conference held in Botswana in 1993, where the San delegates agreed that the term 'San' should be used for the meantime, as it was considered the most neutral''. (Suzman 2001: 4) In 1996, at the inaugural annual general assembly of WIMSA the San delegates decided that San should be used as an overall term when addressing the various San groups in southern Africa.
Explanation of the origin of the word 'San':
|Saa||Picking things up [food] from the ground [i.e. gathering]|
|Saab||A male person gathering.|
|Saas||A female person gathering.|
|Saan||Many people gathering.|
|San||One way to write ‘all of the people gathering’.|
(WIMSA 2005: 58)
A number of San community members have pointed out in personal communication that they do not mind to be called Bushmen as long as they are treated equally and respectfully. However, the most appropriate approach would be to learn the name of the San group you would like to visit and address them accordingly.
Do the San have the same culture as the Khoikhoi?
The San are hunter-gatherers whereas the Khoi are herders. Traditionally the small bands of San lived in an egalitarian society, which emphasised a reciprocal sharing system. The Khoi on the other hand lived in bigger groups and according to hierarchical structures. “From these various sources of information [archaeological sites] we can say that the Khoikhoi were people derived from the aboriginal hunters of southern Africa [the San] - most probably, on linguistic grounds, those hunters who lived in northern Botswana.” (Boonzaier, et al 1996: 25)
Are the San nomads?
Traditionally the San were quite mobile, however, to categorise them as nomads would be incorrect as they lived in clearly defined territories. In fact, “in the case of Botswana, the supposedly irresponsible “nomadism” of the Ju|’hoansi and other Bushmen – necessary for their successful foraging – has been used as a weapon of criticism against their culture. In actuality, settling so-called nomads has caused hardship and privation and has disrupted sustainable land- and resource-use patterns in many places.” (Katz, et al 1997: 67)
The Ju|’hoansi of north-west Namibia, for example, call their territories n!ore and the following explanation will hopefully provide some further insight into the complex system of the use of the San’s territories. “The n!ore system is based on well-known kinship rules. There is general agreement about which band has primary rights to which areas. The boundaries of allied bands’ lands are not precise. A hunting territory is a somewhat circular area that might, for example, extend south and west of a certain range of hills. Animals within such hunting territories belong to no one until they are shot, and they may be shot even by visiting bands. This flexibility is important in relieving local food shortages in times of brief drought.
In years of severe drought, however, food is scarce everywhere. Then there is no point in visiting an allied band’s territory and no reason for conflict.” (Biesele, et al 1997: 32)
Do all San share one language?
The San speak numerous distinct languages, which belong to different language families. According to linguist Nigel Crawhall the language families are the:
- Ju language family
- Khoe language family
- Taa language family
- !Ui language family
A few members of the ‡Khomani of the southern Kalahari in South Africa, for example, still speak their mother-tongue N|u, which belongs to the !Ui language family. The Khwe, who live at Platfontein near Kimberley speak Khwedam, which is part of the Khoe language family. The language of the !Xun, who also reside at Platfontein is called !Xun and belongs to the Ju language family.
- Biesele, Megan and Kxao Royal |O|oo, 1997, SAN. New York
- Bonzaier, Emile, Malherbe, Candy, Berens, Penny and Andy Smith, 1996, The Cape Herders. A History of the Khoikhoi of Southern Africa. Cape Town and Athens
- Katz, Richard, Biesele, Megan and Verna St. Denis, 1997, Healing Makes Our Hearts Happy. Spirituality & Cultural Transformation among the Kalahari Ju|’hoansi. Vermont
- Suzman, James, 2001, An Introduction to the Regional Assessment of the Status of the San in Southern Africa, Windhoek
- WIMSA, 2001, Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa: Report on Activities April 2000 to March 2001, Windhoek
- WIMSA, 2005, Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa: Report on Activities April 2004 to March 2005, Windhoek
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