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Pray For the Bushmen

Pray for the Bushmen is a special prayer focus on the Bushmen or the San, one of the most marginalized people groups in the world. Through this prayer initiative we not only provide guidelines on how to pray for the Bushmen but also aim to create an awareness for their unique way of life and their needs. On this page you can find more information about their history, way of life and current distribution throughout Southern Africa, as well as many links to more information.
For more recent and updated information on the Bushmen visit our blog here
A Very Short History Of The Bushmen In SA
It is generally accepted by historians and anthropologists that the Bushmen were the first inhabitants of Southern Africa, long before any other tribes. The San were pre-eminently hunter-gatherers in contrast to the Khoi (Hottentots) who were pastoralists, a tribe closely related to but still very distinguishable in their way of living, from the San. When Jan van Riebeeck landed in the Cape, history recorded a close encounter with the Khoi that initially led to a confrontation but later to a more favorable relationship in which goods and animals were traded. This was in contrast to the first contact with the San, further a field which proved to be very hostile and unfortunately remained that way, so much so that it eventually led to the complete demise of the San in South Africa. A book written on the history of Uitenahge summarizes it as follows. “If the Hottentot accepted his position as bondman to the Dutch, not so the Bushman-the Ishmael of South Africa. He followed the Dutch trekkers wherever he went, but always as an enemy. Socially therefore, the Boer had nothing to do with the Bushmen, and he has consequently disappeared entirely from the greater part of this country. His lasting influence on the pioneer consequently, has been practically nil.” This once again is in contrast with the Khoi who integrated many of the customs of the Trek Boer culture into their own and vice versa. In spite of the negative perceptions that originated from the initial contact with the San a more intimate look at their culture proved them to be highly intellectual and sophisticated race in the way they related to their natural environment. They managed to adapt and survive in the most hostile climates for thousands of years, something no other tribe ever managed to do. They had developed a unique language and intricate social systems which outsiders took many years to understand. Sadly, it must have been one of the reasons why no one, up to more or less fifty years ago, struggled to engage with them in any meaningful relationship. For hundreds of years they have been seen as vermin and “animals” which prompted their enemies, both Black and White to wipe them off the face of the earth. 
Who are the Bushmen?  
More Web Resources About The Bushmen
The Eland's People: New Perspectives in the Rock Art of the Maloti-Drakensberg Bushmen; Essays in Memory of... by LittleWhiteBakkie
Research Articles On The History Of The Bushmen
The Khoisan Languages
 
 Africa Language Families Map From World Geo Datasets (Khoisan Languages in Red)
Where The Bushmen Used to Live
Late Stone Age
19th Century
This map, depicting the distribution of the San language groups, was created by Dorothea Bleek during the late 1930’s after extensive research undertaken by her in Southern Africa. Her father had completed the enormous pioneering task of recording the language and folklore of the /Xam and the !Kung in the late 19th century. Dorothea continued the work of her father in recording and documenting the San languages of Southern Africa and published books and articles as a result of their combined research and work. Unfortunately, her books are out of print. Her most important work, published after her death, was A Bushman Dictionary.

This map, and photographs taken during her research and travels, can be viewed online in the Bleek and Lloyd Collection in the Manuscript and Archives Department at the Library of the University of Cape Town. Dorothea identified three language groups, the southern group (/Xam) which is identified in blue on the map, the central group identified in  red on the map and the northern group identified in yellow on the map. The southern group could be found in large areas of South Africa. Today they are mostly extinct apart from a remnant in the Tankwa Karoo. This remnant is referred to us the "Karretjie  People". There are still small communities of the central and northern group left in Botswana and Namibia.  Dorothea contributed significantly to an understanding of the different San language groups. Her books are still used as reference works. 
 1959
"There is a vast sweep of dry bush desert lying in Sout-West Africa and Western Bechuanaland, bordered in the north by Lake Ngami and the Okovango River, in the south by the Orange River, and in the west by the Damera Hills. It is the Kalahari Desert, part of a great inland table of Southern Africa that slopes west toward the see, all low sand dunes and great plains, flat, dry and rolling one upon the other for thousands of miles, a hostile country of thirst and heat and thorns where the grass is harsh and often barbed and the stones hide scorpions." (Abstract from: The Harmless People, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas,1959). This book, and the map from it, gives an accurate description of the area where the Kalahari Bushmen used to be found in large numbers. They were referred to as, the Northern Bushman Group.Today, the remnant is staying in isolated communities throughout the Kalahari region.  
 
During the course of his career, filmmaker John Marshall (the brother of Elizabeth Marshall), shot more than one million feet of film and video (722 hours) of the Ju/'hoansi (!Kung Bushmen) of Namibia's Kalahari Desert between 1950 and 2000. This body of work is unrivaled as a long-term visual study of a single group of people. Contained in Marshall's footage are the personal histories of individuals, documents of a now non-existent way of life, and the unfolding of massive social and economic change as experienced by one group of people over a period of fifty years. Marshall produced twenty-three films and videos and one multi-part series from his extensive footage archive. Marshall's approach to filmmaking evolved alongside changes in film and video technology, in the fields of anthropology and ethnographic and documentary film, and on a very personal level, in Marshall's relationship to the Ju/'hoansi. These films can be purchased from Documentary Educational Resources. It is an epic work and must be the most complete document available that is depicting the traditions and lifestyle of the !Kung Bushmen, and for that matter the Bushmen in general. 
Where They Live Today 
Namibia
The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs annually provide an update on the status of indigenous Peoples in various countries. Here is an abstract from the 2012 report: 
 
"The indigenous peoples of Namibia represent some 8% of the national population. It is generally accepted that the San (Bushmen), who number between 32,000 and 38,000, are indigenous to the country. There are six different San groups in Namibia, each speaking their own language and with distinct customs, traditions and histories. They include, among others, the Khwe, 4,400 people mainly in Caprivi and Kavango Regions, the Hai||om in the Etosha area of north-central Namibia (9-12,000), and the Ju|’hoansi (7,000), who live mainly in Tsumkwe District East in the Otjozondjupa and the Omaheke Regions. The San were, in the past, mainly hunter-gatherers but, today, many have diversified livelihoods, working as domestic servants or farm labourers, growing crops and raising livestock, doing odd jobs in rural and urban areas and engaging in small-scale businesses and services. Over 80% of the San have been dispossessed of their ancestral lands and resources, and today they are some of the poorest and most marginalized peoples in the country. Other indigenous peoples are the Himba, who number some 25,000 and who reside mainly in the semi-arid north-west (Kunene Region) and the Nama, a Khoe-speaking group who number some 70,000. The Himba are pastoral peoples who have close ties to the Herero, also pastoralists who live in central and eastern Namibia. The Nama include the Topnaars of the Kuiseb River valley and the Walvis Bay area in west-central Namibia, a group of some 1,800 people who live in a dozen small settlements and depend on small-scale livestock production, use of !nara melons (Acanthosicyos horrida), and tourism. Namibia voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples but has no national legislation dealing directly with indigenous peoples nor are they mentioned in the Constitution. In 2010, the Namibian cabinet approved a Division for San Development under the Office of the Prime Minister, which is an important milestone in promoting the rights of indigenous peoples/marginalised communities in Namibia."
 
Kung-Tsumkwe, Ju'hoan of Namibia (Joshua Project People Profile)  
The !Kung Bushmen (Profile by Orville Jenkins)  
People Profile: The !Kung Bushmen (Angola, Botswana, Namibia)
Ethnologue: Languages of the World - Namibia
 
The Ju/'hoansi Bushmen, or Kung, lives in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy surrounding Tsumkwe in Eastern Namibia The Nyae Nyae Conservancy is the traditional home of the Ju/'hoansi Bushmen. It is large track of Kalahari wilderness and one of the last true wilderness regions in Namibia. Archeological evidence indicates that the Ju/'hoansi Bushmen has been resident in these areas for thousands of years. In 1998 the Nyae Nyae Conservancy became the first communal area in Namibia to be declared a conservancy. This gave the Ju/hoansi the rights to resume their traditional lifestyle of hunting and gathering. This has been incorporated into the management of natural resources that includes wildlife management and tourism. Although many traditional elements still remain, the Ju/'hoansi are integrating their traditional way of living with modern ways of natural resource management. Still many challenges remain.

Angola

Botswana
The Bushmen, also known in Botswana as the Basarwa, numbered 54000 people during 2010. As with the Bushmen in other countries the were traditional hunter-gatherers but the majority has forfeited this lifestyle for small-scale agropastoralism and informal trading. They reside in both rural and urban areas, especially in the Kalahari Desert of central Botswana and in the eastern part of the country. The Bushmen in Botswana are sub-divided in  a large number of distinctive groups, most of whom speak their own mother-tongue. Some of these groups include the Ju/’hoansi, Bugakhwe, //Anikhwe, Tsexakhwe, !Xoo, Naro, G/wi, G//ana, Kua, Tshwa, Deti, ‡Khomani, ‡Hoa, //’Xau‡esi, Balala, Shua, Danisi and /Xaisa. The San are some of the poorest and most underprivileged people in Botswana, with a high percentage of them living below the poverty line.
Kung-Tsumkwe of Botswana (Joshua Project People Profile)
Ethnologue: Languages of the World - Botswana

The Plight of the Central Kalahari Bushmen of Botswana

Read more about the plight of the Central Kalahari Bushmen: I want 2 go home. Situated in the middle of Botswana is the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, - a reserve created to protect the traditional territory of the 5,000 Gana, Gwi and Tsila Bushmen (and their neighbours the Bakgalagadi), as well as the game upon which they depend. In the early 1980s, diamonds were discovered in the reserve. Soon after thjs discovery, government ministers went into the reserve to tell the Bushmen living there that they would have to leave because of the discovery of diamonds. In three extensive clearances, during 1997, 2002 and 2005, virtually all the Bushmen were forcibly removed. Their homes were dismantled, their school and health post were closed, their water supply was destroyed  and the people were threatened and trucked away. They now live in resettlement camps outside the reserve. Rarely able to hunt, and arrested and beaten when they do, they are dependent on government handouts.


Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve After an eight-year struggle, Botswana’s indigenous Bushmen have won the right to access borehole water in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, enabling them to resume their millennia-old hunter-gatherer lifestyle on their ancestral lands. On January 27th 2011 the Court of Appeal, Botswana’s highest court, ruled that the government ban on their use of the borehole, in one of the driest regions in the world, amounted to “inhuman and degrading treatment”. Read the full article here... See the updated blog post about the Central Kalahari Bushmen here and here
 
South Africa
The /Xam People Of The Great Karoo
The /Xam people and their language.
Very little is known about the languages of South Africa's San people, as most of these beautiful, ancient languages were never recorded. Fortunately, the /Xam language was recorded almost in its entirety, thanks to the work of a German linguist, Dr. WHI Bleek. /Xam speakers originally occupied a large part of western South Africa. By 1850, only a few hundred /Xam speakers lived in remote parts of the Northern Cape. Today, the language has become extinct. But it survives in 12 000 pages of hand-written testimony transcribed word-for-word from some of the last /Xam speakers in the 1860s and 1870s. These pages record not just the /Xam language, but also their myths, beliefs and rituals. A comprehensive /Xam dictionary was produced by Dr Bleek at that time, but was only published years later. (DF Bleek, 1956. A Bushman Dictionary. New Haven, American Oriental Society).
Where do you find the /Xam people in South Africa?
 The /Xam people are not as distinctive a group as the San groups in Namibia and Botswana. They live in an area  known as the Tankwa Karoo. They are a nomadic group and have been referred to as the "Karretjie people". They move around by means of donkey carts through one of the most arid regions in South Africa. Very little has been documented about them.
  
Where to get more information about the /Xam?
Pippa Skotnes: Claim to the Country - The Archive of Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy LloydIn the 1870s, facing cultural extinction and the death of their language, several /Xam men and women told their stories to two pioneering colonial scholars at the Cape, Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd. The narratives of these San (or Bushmen) were of the land, the rain, the history of the first people, the origin of the moon and stars. They told stories of their beliefs and their individual lives; how stories floated on the wind, and how they had come to Cape Town as prisoners of the British Crown. All these narratives were faithfully recorded and translated by Bleek and Lloyd, creating an archive of over 13 000 pages which includes drawings, notebooks, maps and photographs. Now residing in three main institutions - the University of Cape Town, the South African Museum and the National Library of South Africa - this archive has recently been entered into UNESCO's memory of the World Register. A comprehensive summary of the more than 13000 pages of narratives were compiled by Pippa Skotnes in an very inque work "Claim to the Country - The Archive of Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd" This book provides incredibale insight into the then, ways of the /Xam people.

The Bleek and Lloyd collection of research notes is now available in digital format as the
Digital Bleek and Lloyd. 
The remarkable digital archive includes a 280 000-word searchable index, cross-referenced and including notes and summaries for each of the stories listed. Notes in italics are direct quotes from the reports of Bleek and Lloyd in which they detailed the progress of their research.The Digital Bleek and Lloyd includes scans of every page of the 110 Lucy Lloyd |xam notebooks, 17 Lloyd (mostly) !kun notebooks and 28 Wilhelm Bleek |xam notebooks.
 
The San (/Xam) And The South African Coat Of Arms

Linton Panel
The figure in the South African Coat of Arms of  Bushmen, comes from the Linton panel, a famous panel of rock art now housed and displayed in the South African Museum in Cape Town. In 1917, this panel was removed from the farm of Linton in the Maclear district in the Eastern Cape. The panel shows people capturing the power of the /Xam called !Gi. The San sought and used this power for the benefit of their community. It allowed for the healing of the sick and for the healing of divisions within society. San rock art was believed to be rich in this special power. 

What has happened to the /Xam?
There is only a small remnant left of the /Xam people in South Africa. DNA studies by
Prof Mike De Jongh of the University of South Africa have proved their relationship with the original /Xam people, although there are no historical continuity in the way they live. They are called the "Karretjie Mense" or "Karretjie People". Karretjie is an Afrikaans name, referring to a donkey cart. This is a group of people with no, or little hope of a better future for them. Towards the end of 2011 Prof De Jong's book on the Karretjie People will be published under the title: Roots and Routes: Karretjie People of the Great Karoo. The Marginalisation of a South African First People. This book can be ordered from UNISA Press.

More academic works on the Karretjie People:

*
"Childhood: an Anthropological study of itinerancy and domestic fluidity amongst the Karretjie people of the South African Karoo" by S.A. Steyn. (Downloadable) (UNISA)

* "Roots and Routes: Karretjie People of the Great Karoo. The Marginalisation of a South African First People"  by Prof M De Jongh. The lives of a previously ‘invisible’ and forgotten ‘first people’ of South Africa come to the fore in this carefully researched study. The ‘Karretjie People’ (Donkey Cart People) of the Great Karoo are direct descendants of the /Xam (San/Bushmen), who were the earliest inhabitants of much of the Karoo interior. Today, as itinerant sheep-shearers, the ‘Karretjie People’ roam the arid expanses of the Karoo in their donkey carts in search of a possible shearing opportunity, sleeping over on the roadside in their make-shift overnight shelters.
This unique study is the result of several decades of original research into the lives and community of these gypsy-like wanderers, and highlights the plight of this marginalised South African community, ‘poorest of the poor’. The ingenious adaptation of the ‘Karretjie People’ to particularly trying circumstances and their challenging environment is illustrated by their unique way of life. In a reader-friendly narrative Mike de Jongh not only makes the story of the ‘Karretjie People’ accessible to the general reader, but offers a deeper insight into the early history and environment of the Great Karoo. At the same time, students of human and social sciences will find material in the study appropriate to methodological and theoretical issues in this subject area. Besides offering a colourful portrait of a community neglected by both government and NGO agencies, this book contains rich sociological data, which should bear important implications for policy-makers in the spheres of education and development as well as in the domain of political decisions.
Professor Michael de Jongh is a prominent anthropologist who has extensively researched the ‘Karretjie People’. He has published widely in the fields of ethnicity, urbanisation, traditional leadership, local government, methodology and human mobility. Order at http://www.unisa.ac.za/press-order-form/
 
How Can We Pray For The Bushmen?
Their is redemption from spiritual darkness and life in abundance available to them. Pray for the restoration of the Bushmen as the spiritual gatekeepers of the continent. For them, through prayer and intercession, to bring redemption to the people of Africa. For them to discover their identity in Christ Jesus. For the restoration of their pride in their heritage. 
 
 

Interesting Links - Desert Plants
Kalahari Plants and Their Traditional Uses​ 
Citrullus lanatus (Tsamma Melon)


 

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