The San People or Bushmen

The San People or Bushmen (also called Basarwa) live in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Angola. There are around 90,000 San Bushmen spread over these four African countries with 55,000 in Botswana, 27,000 in Namibia, 10,000 in South Africa, and less than 5,000 in Angola. The San people live in family groups and traditionally have practiced a hunter-gatherer way of life. However, since the 1950s, they have taken to more settled agriculture with the help of the government. Women have an equal place of respect in San society. The San people have in-depth knowledge of the plants and animals of their region. The San are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa, where they have lived for at least 20 000 years. The term San is commonly used to refer to a diverse group of hunter-gatherers living in Southern Africa who share historical and linguistic connections. The San were also referred to as Bushmen, but this term has since been abandoned as it is considered derogatory. There are many different San groups – they have no collective name for themselves, and the terms ‘Bushman’, ‘San’, ‘Basarwa’ (in Botswana) are used. The term, ‘bushman’, came from the Dutch term, ‘bossiesman’, which meant ‘bandit’ or ‘outlaw’.The San are excellent hunters. Although they do a fair amount of trapping, the best method of hunting is with bow and arrow. The San arrow does not kill the animal straight away. It is the deadly poison, which eventually causes the death. In the case of small antelope such as Duiker or Steenbok, a couple of hours may elapse before death. For larger antelope, this could be 7 to 12 hours. For large game, such as Giraffe it could take as long as 3 days. Today the San make the poison from the larvae of a small beetle but will also use poison from plants, such as the euphorbia, and snake venom.The San belief system generally observes the supremacy of one powerful god, while at the same time recognizing the presence of lesser gods along with their wives and children. Homage is also paid to the spirits of the deceased. Among some San, it is believed that working the soil is contrary to the world order established by the god. Some groups also revere the moon. The most important spiritual being to the southern San was /Kaggen, the trickster-deity. He created many things, and appears in numerous myths where he can be foolish or wise, tiresome or helpful.

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