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Who are they?
The 'Bushmen' are the
oldest inhabitants of southern Africa, where they have lived for at least
20,000 years. Their home is in the vast expanse of the Kalahari desert. There
are many different Bushman peoples - they have no collective name for
themselves, and the terms 'Bushman', 'San', 'Basarwa' (in Botswana) and so on
are used variously. Most of those which are widely understood are imposed by
outsiders and have some pejorative sense; many now use and accept the term
'Bushmen'. They speak a variety of languages, all of which incorporate 'click'
sounds represented in writing by symbols such as ! or /.
How do they
The Bushmen are hunter-gatherers, who for thousands of years
supported themselves in the desert through these skills. They hunt - mainly
various kinds of antelope - but their daily diet has always consisted more of
the fruits, nuts and roots which they seek out in the desert. They make their
own temporary homes from wood that they gather. Many Bushmen who have been
forced off their lands now live in settlements in areas that are unsuitable for
hunting and gathering - they support themselves by growing some food, or by
working on ranches.
What problems do they face?
The Bushmen had
their homelands invaded by cattle herding Bantu tribes from around 1,500 years
ago, and by white colonists over the last few hundred years. From that time
they faced discrimination, eviction from their ancestral lands, murder and
oppression amounting to a massive though unspoken genocide, which reduced them
in numbers from several million to 100,000. Today, although all suffer from a
perception that their lifestyle is 'primitive' and that they need to be made to
live like the majority cattle-herding tribes, specific problems vary according
to where they live. In South Africa, for example, the !Khomani now have most of
their land rights recognised, but many other Bushman tribes have no land rights
The Gana (G//ana) and Gwi (G/wi) tribes in Botswana's Central
Kalahari Game Reserve are among the most persecuted. Far from recognising their
ownership rights over the land they have lived on for thousands of years, the
Botswana government has in fact forced almost all of them off it. The
harassment began in 1986, and the first forced removals were in 1997. Those
that remained faced torture, drastic restrictions in their hunting rights, and
routine harassment. In early 2002, this harassment intensified, accompanied by
the destruction of the Bushmen's water pump, the draining of their existing
water supplies into the desert, and the banning of hunting and gathering.
Almost all were forced out by these tactics, but a large number have since
returned, with many more desperate to do so.
Information kindly provided by
||Bushmen of Southern Africa
accessible introduction to the history and current condition of the hunting
people of southern Africa, placing modern Bushmen in historical context and
showing how they have adapted to outside pressures which are forcing them to
fit into the modern states of Namibia and Botswana.
(amazon.com) - USA (amazon.co.uk) - UK
Survival is lobbying for respect for the human and land
rights of all Bushman peoples across southern Africa. In particular, Survival
is campaigning with the Gana and Gwi Bushmen in Botswana, calling for them to
be allowed home, for recognition of their land rights in accordance with
international law, and for their right to live as they choose.
a non-profit organization formed for the benefit of the San
(Bushmen, Basarwa) and other rural peoples of the Kalahari desert region of
National Geographic - Article
Bushmen Driven From
Ancestral Lands in Botswana