Who Are The Khoisan?

The Khoisan are said to be the earliest communities to occupy the Southern Africa region. The Khoisan people lived peacefully until the coming of the Bantu later on who grabbed the land that the Khoisan settled on. It was not over since they were met with more brutality after the coming of the Portuguese and Dutch.

Bushmen making a cooking fire.
Bushmen making a cooking fire.

The Khoisan are a community which lives in Southern Africa and that mostly relies on hunting and gathering. Surprisingly they do not speak any of the Bantu languages but they have clicked in their native language.

Why Are They Called Khoisan?

The Khoisan are a combination of two communities namely the Khoikhoi and the San hence the name Khoisan. 

Notably, the Khoikhoi and the San had common cultural practices and also their dialect had some resemblance. Due to this likeness, they, therefore, came together and formed the larger group called Khoisan.

Despite their similarities, there before the Khoikhoi and the San lived separately on their own and each community had their means of livelihood which were different. The Khoikhoi were pastoralists and also practiced some agriculture. They kept a large herd and they traversed various parts. On the other hand, the San were primarily hunters and gatherers and semi-nomads who relied on the seasons to move to new areas.

Before the word Khoisan was coined, they were called the Bushmen.

Where Do The Khoisan People Live?

The Khoisan people occupy the Southern Africa region. They are found in countries like Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho. They can also be seen in the region of the Kalahari desert.

The Khoisan have faced a lot of hardship in their settlement areas. Since they were among the first people to occupy the Southern African area, they were able to acquire rich land that was favorable to them. During the migration of the Bantus, some of them found themselves in Southern Africa. Since the Bantus greatly relied on crop cultivation, they displaced the Khoisan from their land forcing them to occupy less productive land. Later on, with the coming of the Dutch, they took away land from the Khoisan to settle the Europeans. The Khoisan were forced to work on the land which was taken from them. Recently, the Khoisan in Botswana were evicted from their land as it was said to have diamonds. To make their lives more difficult, the availability of water was cut short for them, thus they were left with nothing else but to evacuate the land. Since then they have faced challenges like unemployment and drug abuse.

How Many Khoisan People Are There?

The entire population of the Khoisan people is estimated to be 100000.

In the early days, the Khoisan population was one of the largest in the world. However, with each passing year, the Khoisan population is seen to be on the decline. Various factors have contributed to the sharp decline in the population of the Khoisan.

The presence of diseases has caused a major drop in the Khoisan number. With the coming of the Europeans, the Khoisan were greatly infected with smallpox disease. Since there was no cure yet, it led to the death of a large number of the Khoisan people. The climate of the region has greatly affected the Khoisan people. The area inhabited by the Khoisan is arid. It is often a challenge for the Khoisan to find anything to eat. With inadequate food, some of them die and there is also less production of children. This affects the population since the birth rate and the mortality rate have a huge gap.

What Are The Khoisan People Known For?

Every community has the features of its culture which make it very unique. The Khoisan are famous for their clothing attire, their music and dances and also the jewelry and weapons they made. 

The Khoisan are known to have the ability to distinguish between the plants which have a medicinal value and those which don’t. Since there were no hospitals in the past, the Khoisan used herbs to treat their diseases. A child is taught from a very young age to identify the herbs. The Khoisan can also easily tell which plants are edible. They largely relied on these plants, especially during times when food was scarce. It is said that in a field where one can only see dirty vegetation, a Khoisan on the other hand sees a lot of food there.

What Is The Difference Between The Khoi Khoi And The San?

Although the Khoikhoi and the San are said to be closely linked, they are two different communities and hence they have differences between them.

With the look of their appearance, it can be quite easy to distinguish between Khoikhoi and San since the Khoikhoi are taller than the San. The Khoikhoi set up simple structures like camps where they lived since they were pastoralists so that it could be easy for them to move from place to place. For the San, they were not involved in moving now and then since they were hunters and gatherers. They, therefore, settled in caves.

What Is Important To The Khoisan People?

Culture is very important and is cherished by the community which practises it.

The Khoisan people have a special ability whereby they can tell when an animal is around where they are. This is especially important to them since they hunt. With their senses, they can tell where an animal is. They are skilled in using their poisoned arrows in killing the animals for food.

The Khoisan also cherish their ability to discover medicinal and edible food. This is very important to them considering that they live in a very dry area. They use the knowledge that they have to enable them to get food for their survival.

Despite the unique culture of the Khoisan people, their culture is evidently under threat of being diminished. With the changing world with everything being modern, many Khoisan people are leaving their culture as they search for employment in the cities and greener pastures.

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