The Bushman / San People

There are approximately 27 000 San in Namibia. The San have inhabited Southern Africa for at least 30 000 years, proof of this habitation can be found in the wealth of rock art that can be found in numerous locations throughout the country. The Bushmen are one of the most fascinating people on earth, unfortunately their hunter gatherer lifestyle has constantly come under threat from all the other residents of the regions.

Traditionally the San had no leaders or chiefs, personal decisions were made individually and group decisions were left to the group. When times were good groups could swell to over one hundred people but during drought times groups might dwindle to family units of less than 10 people.

The Bushmen followed water, game and edible plants, and were always mobile. They did not farm or keep animals and carried everything they possessed with them as they moved. Traditionally San women gathered edible plants, for food and sources of water, while the men hunted.

It is thought that when the first bantu tribes arrived the San coexisted peacefully with them, but as the bantu numbers swelled pressure was placed on the placid San. Many San ended up as slaves while others abandoned their traditional hunting areas and move into the drier areas (Kalahari Desert) of Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

The early Boer settlers in the Cape launched an extermination campaign and killed about 200 000 people in around 200 years, to these people the San were seen as sub-human and no better than animals. Of the 55 000 San people who remain about 60% live in the Kalahari in Botswana, 35% in Namibia with the rest scattered all over southern Africa.

Twyfelfontein and the Brandberg in Namibia are two areas rich in Bushmen art, the oldest of these is thought to date back 28 000 years.

The outlook for the San is not hopeful although some organisations are working to preserve the culture, the last remaining areas were they could maintain the hunter gatherer lifestyle are slowly been converted to commercial farmland or mining concessions.

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