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Bushmen

!Kung San man from the Kalahari ( 1986)
Total population: 82,000
Significant populations in: Botswana (55,000), Namibia (27,000)
Language: Various Khoisan languages
Religion:
Related ethnic groups: Khoikhoi
The Bushmen (also known as Khwe Khoe, Basarwa, or San) peoples of South Africa and neighbouring Botswana and Namibia, who live in the Kalahari, are part of the Khoisan group and are related to the Khoikhoi. While they have no collective name for themselves in any of their languages, all of which incorporate click consonants, they do identify themselves by group with such names as Ju/’hoansi and !Kung (the punctuation characters representing different clicks). Archeological evidence suggests that they have lived in southern Africa (and probably other areas of Africa) for some 22,000 years. Along with the pygmies of Central Africa, the Bushmen have been considered a possible root or source for the female DNA lineage—the so-called Mitochondrial Eve.Traditionally the Bushmen culture is hunter-gatherer with the people living in temporary wooden shelters amidst a difficult environment. The Bushmen would use a manual communication system while hunting.

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Contents

San
Relocation and government persecution
In the media



San - Contents

The term "San" was historically applied to Bushmen by their ethnic relatives and historic rivals, the Khoikhoi. This term means outsider in the Khoikhoi language and was derogatory; anthropologist Henry Harpending states that "in the Kalahari, 'San' has all the baggage that the ' N-word' has in America." [1]. For this reason, some of this group still prefer to be called Bushmen. Opinions, however, vary on whether the term "Bushmen" is appropriate – given that the term is sometimes viewed as pejorative.
Bushmen community at Gope, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
Bushmen community at Gope, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
In South Africa, the term San has become favored in official contexts. Angola does not have an official term for Bushmen, but they are sometimes referred to as Bushmen, Kwankhala, or Bosquímanos (the Portuguese term for Bushmen). Neither Zambia nor Zimbabwe have official terms, although in the latter case the terms Amasili and Batwa are sometimes used. In Botswana, the officially used term is Basarwa [4], although Basarwa, a Tswana language label, also has negative connotations.


Relocation and government persecution - Contents

Since the mid- 1990s the central government of Botswana has been trying to move Bushmen out of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve even though the national constitution guarantees the people the right to live there in perpetuity. The Game Reserve was originally created in 1961 to protect the 5,000 Bushmen living there who were being persecuted by farmers and cattle-rearing tribes. The government's position is that it is too costly to provide even such basic services as medical care and schooling, despite the reserve's existing tourism revenues. It has banned hunting with guns in the Reserve and has said that the Bushmen threaten the Reserve's ecology. Others, however, claim that the government's intent is to clear the area - the size of Denmark - for the lucrative tourist trade and for diamond mining. As of October 2005 (Daily Telegraph, London: 29.10.2005), the government has resumed its policy of forcing all Bushmen off their lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, using armed police and threats of violence or death. Many of the involuntarily displaced Bushmen live in squalid resettlement camps and have resorted to prostitution, while about 250 others remain or have surreptitiously returned to the Kalahari to resume their independent lifestyle.
Bushman woman in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Bushman woman in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The group as a whole has little voice in the national political process and is not one of the tribal groups recognized in the constitution of Botswana. Over the generations, the Bushmen of South Africa have continued to be absorbed into the Coloured population, particularly the Griqua sub-group, which is an Afrikaans-speaking people of predominantly Khoisan stock that has certain unique cultural markers that set them apart from the rest of the Coloureds.Around 240 Bushmen have pressed a court case against the government, for the right to return to their lands. The case is ongoing in late 2005, and has not yet been settled.


In the media - Contents

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 with the famous book The Lost World of the Kalahari, which was also a BBC TV series.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).John Marshall (see Visual anthropology) documented the lives of bushmen in the Nyae Nyae region of Namibia over more than a 50 year period. His early film "The Hunters," released in 1957, shows a giraffe hunt during the 1950s. "N!Ai: The Story of a !Kung Woman," (1980) is the account of a woman who grew up while the Bushmen were living as automonous hunter-gatherers and 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 Ju/’hoansi of Southern Africa, from 1951 to 2000.
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