//African Tribe of the Day: The Bushman, San or Khoisan, of Southern Africa

African Tribe of the Day: The Bushman, San or Khoisan, of Southern Africa

Population about 80000 between South Africa , Botswana and Namibia

Known as the first people of South Africa , the Khoisan are renowned for their close connection to nature , their nomadic lifestyle and their language that comprises of clicking sounds . Sadly , they are also synonymous with the plight of minorities in Southern Africa and have been variously hunted , exploited and pushed off their land . Today , the survival of the San and their way of life hangs precariously in the balance .

San Bushmen tribe

Traditionally , the San people were hunter – gatherers who lived off the land, roaming vast tracts of bushveld all over southern Africa . For various reasons including mining , farming and the creation of national parks , the Bushmen have been forced into ever smaller ranges . Today , they are restricted to small clusters around the Makgadikgadi Pan .
Kgalagadi gemsbok – Jeppestown
The Bushmen were the great artists of southern Africa and their charming rock art – dating back thousands of years – can be found in caves and rock overhangs all over the country . The San used pigments made from mineral deposits , ochres , blood and egg to fashion delightful imagery of humans and animals .

For many years it was believed that the paintings were merely representations of everyday life, and it is from caves in the Drakensberg Mountains that we know the area was once home to leopard , eland and elephant which are now extinct in the area . However, modern theories attribute the paintings of this African tribe to a much more exciting idea . It is believed that the caves were sacred sights , a little bit like cathedrals , used by shamans as an interface with the spirit realm. The depictions are both access points to these realms as well as records of the encounters . What anthropologists believe is that rock art is a pictorial representation of the famous trance dance .

The magical trance dance is integral to the customs and beliefs of the Bushman . Also known as the healing dance , this ritual brings together the entire community . While the community members maintain rhythm through clapping and chanting , the healers and elders , who lead the ceremony , dance around the fire , stamping , clapping and mimicking animals . The exertion , accompanied by hyperventilation , induces a powerful trance – like state in which they can enter the spirit world . The dance has a number of functions from healing sickness to dispelling what they call “star – sickness” which causes ill – will , anger , arguments and jealousy .