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An 18th century drawing of Khoikhoi worshipping the moon
An 18th century drawing of Khoikhoi worshipping the moon
The Khoikhoi ("real people") or Khoi are a historical division of the Khoisan ethnic group of south-western Africa, closely related to the Bushmen (or San, as the Khoikhoi called them). Khoikhoi is sometimes spelt KhoeKhoe. At the time of the arrival of white settlers in 1652 the Khoikhoi had lived in southern Africa for about 30,000 years, and practised extensive pastoral agriculture in the Cape region.

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Name - Contents

They were traditionally - and are still occasionally in colloquial language - known to white colonists as the Hottentots, a name that is nowadays described as "offensive" by the Oxford Dictionary of South African English. The word "hottentot" meant "stutterer" in the colonists' northern dialect of Dutch, although some Dutch use the verb "stotteren" to describe the clicking sounds (klik being the normal onomatopaea, parallel to English) typically used in the Khoisan languages. The word lives on, however, in the names of several African animal and plant species, such as the Hottentot Fig, or Ice Plant (Carpobrotus edulis).

History - Contents

Khoikhoi social organisation was profoundly damaged and, in the end, destroyed by white colonial expansion and land seizure from the late seventeenth century onwards, which ended traditional Khoikhoi pastoral life. As social structures broke down, some Khoikhoi people settled on farms and became bondsmen or farmworkers; others were incorporated into existing clan and family groups of the Xhosa people.Although there is no longer any 'pure' ethnic group in southern Africa with an exclusively Khoikhoi identity, mixed race groups such as the Coloured people of the Cape area; the Griqua people of the Western Cape and the Oorlams people of Namibia all possess Khoikhoi heritage or ancestry, as do many Xhosa (mainly Bantu) people of the Eastern Cape, and some people who identify as white South Africans.
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