Khoisan: Ethnic group

Source: Google images

Khoisan” (also spelled Khoesaan, Khoesan or Khoe–San) is a unifying name for two groups of individuals of Southern Africa, who share physical and putative linguistic characteristics distinct from the Bantu majority of the region. Culturally, the Khoisan are divided into the Foraging San, or Bushmen, and the pastoral Khoi, or more specifically Khoikhoi, previously known as Hottentots.

The San include the indigenous inhabitants of Southern Africa before the southward Bantu migrations from Central and East Africa reached their region, which led to the Bantu populations displacing the Khoi and San to become the predominant inhabitants of Southern Africa. The distinct origin of the Khoi is debated. Over time, some Khoi abandoned pastoralism and adopted the hunter-gatherer economy of the San, probably due to a drying climate, and are now considered San. Similarly, the Bantu Damara people who migrated south later abandoned agriculture and adopted the Khoi economy. Large Khoisan populations remain in several arid areas in the region, notably in the Kalahari Desert.

Source: https://en.m.wikipediaorg/wiki

Khoisan Language: Linguistic Characteristics


WRITTEN BY: Oswin R.A. Köhler & Anthony Traill



While the word and sentence structure of the various Khoisan groups differ considerably, the similarity in sound structure of the Southern African Khoisan languages is pervasive. All these languages are tone languages and use the same four basic clicks, symbolized |, ǁ, !, and ǂ; the Southern group is unique in its use of a fifth, the bilabial or “kiss click,” symbolized ʘ. Sandawe and Hadza use only the three basic clicks |, ǁ, and !.

Each click combines with a number of accompanying articulations such as voicing, nasality, aspiration, and ejection to produce a large number of sound complexes involving a click. Languages differ in the number of such distinctions; they vary from a low of 9 in Hadza through 20 in Nama, 52 in | Gui, 55 in Ju, and 83 in !Xóõ. To the click complexes must be added varying numbers of nonclick consonants resulting in some uniquely large and complicated consonant systems.

The | Gui system of 90 consonants, the Ju system of 105 consonants, and the !Xóõ system of 126 consonants are the largest in the world. By contrast, Nama—which, like | Gui, is a Khoe language—has only 32 consonants, and Hadza has a modest 54. While these figures show that the numerical balance of clicks to nonclicks in the Khoisan languages varies, the proportion of words containing clicks to those with other consonants reveals a strong bias toward clicks. In Nama the ratio is 8:1, and in Ju, | Gui, and !Xóõ it is 7:1. In Hadza, however, click words are outnumbered by nonclick words 7:1, confirming a very different history for that language.

In all the Southern African Khoisan languages, strict rules govern where particular consonants may appear in a word: all the clicks and most of the nonclicks must appear at the beginning of a word and must be followed by a vowel; between the vowels of a word only a handful of consonants such as bmnl, and r may appear, and, if a word ends in a consonant, it must be m or n (and possibly pts, or s, which are grammatical suffixes in the Khoe languages only). Hadza and Sandawe deviate completely from these restrictions, thus reinforcing their distinct historical development.

The effect of the Southern African Khoisan restrictions somewhat compensates for the complexity that an abnormally large number of unusual consonants might pose for speech perception and language learning: clicks and most other consonants uniquely identify the beginning of words. In running speech the effect of the clicks is diluted by the grammatical particles, most of which do not contain a click.

Nevertheless, the overall auditory clicking effect of a Khoisan language is nothing less than spectacular. In addition to consonantal complexities, many of the languages expand a basic system of five plain vowels through the use of colourings—for example, nasalization, pharyngealization, and different voice qualities such as breathy and creaky voice. !Xóõ thus ends up with more than 40 vowel differences.


Word and sentence structure varies markedly between the major groups of languages and even within the Southern group. Word structure in the Ju languages is extremely simple, with a dearth of suffixes and no prefixes. Nouns are assigned to five classes determined entirely by the pronouns they select, and the semantic basis of the different classes is vague: one class includes nouns referring to humans, most animals are assigned to a different class, and many inanimate nouns fall into another.

The main parts of a sentence follow the order subject–verb–object (SVO), as in English. The Khoe languages are distinguished by a system of noun genders based on the categories masculine, feminine, and common, which are present to different degrees in the form of distinctive singular, plural, and dual (pair of) suffixes. Thus the Nama root khoe- ‘person’ appears as khoe-s‘woman,’ khoe-b ‘man,’ khoe-i ‘person.’ In Khoe languages of the Non-Khoekhoe branch these suffixes may be dropped when the gender is clear from the context. While the assignment of animate nouns to such sex-based classes is fairly obvious, the assignment of inanimate nouns is quite arbitrary.

However, because the genders are also associated with rough semantic distinctions of shape (masculine with long, narrow objects and feminine with short, broad, round objects), specificity, and countability, inanimate nouns may be more naturally assigned to one rather than the other gender.

In certain cases these semantic distinctions can be seen clearly when the same root for an inanimate noun appears in the different genders. Thus, in Naro, tsa-ba (masculine) is a borehole, tsa-sa (feminine) is a pan or water in a (geographic) pan, and tsa-ne (common) is water; |’e-ba (masculine) is a match or piece of firewood, |’e-sa (feminine) is a fire, and | ’e-ne (common) is firewood; tsau-ba (masculine) is a finger, but tsau-sa (feminine) is the whole hand.

In addition to affecting the singular, dual, and plural forms, nominal genders control agreement (known as concord) on dependent forms in the sentence. For example, in  ǁAni the singular and dual forms for masculine ‘leopard’ control the italicized suffixes of the numeral and the object marker in the sentences | ui-m !’ui-ma ti mũ-m-ta (literally ‘one-[masculine singular] leopard [masculine singular] I-see [masculine singular]’; i.e., ‘I see one male leopard’) and | am-tsa !’ui-tsa ti-mũ-tsa-ta (literally ‘two-[masculine dual] leopard [masculine dual] I-see [masculine dual]’; i.e., ‘I see a pair of male leopards’). Unlike that of the Ju group, the order of the major parts of the sentence in the Khoe languages is commonly subject–object–verb (SOV).

The word and sentence structures of the two branches of the Southern group of languages differ in some major respects. Whereas suffixes are few in the !Kwi languages, they are prolific in the Taa dialects, and there is even a remnant of a prefixal system in some of the latter. Nouns fall into five classes, some of which have distinctive suffixes that—as in Ju—are associated with vague semantic classes but not ones based on the Khoe gender principle; the singular and plural forms of a noun may be marked by a change of suffix but not necessarily by a change of class.

By contrast, a common way of forming plurals in | Xam, a !Kwi language, is through reduplication of the stem: ǁnáin‘house,’ ǁnáin-ǁnáin ‘houses.’ Nouns in the Taa dialects govern suffixal agreement on dependent forms in a way reminiscent of Khoe agreement. This rule requires that adjectives, transitive verbs, and third-person pronouns bear an appropriately agreeing suffix, as can be seen in the demonstrative pronouns in the following examples: tâa té’e (literally ‘person this’; i.e., ‘this person’); tùu tú’u (literally ‘people these’; i.e., ‘these people’); |ûma tá’ã (literally ‘python this’; i.e., ‘this python’); tàli tí’i (literally ‘blood clot this’; i.e., ‘this blood clot’); tháa tán’n (literally ‘thing this’; i.e., ‘this thing’).

A grammatical feature common to many of the Khoisan languages is the use of verb compounds where English would use a preposition or a single verb. Thus ‘go in’ is ‘go enter’ and ‘trample’ is ‘stand squash’ in !Xóõ; ‘send away’ is ‘send go off’ and ‘touch’ is ‘feel sense’ in Ju.

Vocabulary and writing

As may be expected, Khoisan vocabulary reflects the cultural adaptations of the hunter-gatherers who speak the languages. In !Xóõ, for example, there is an extensive anatomic vocabulary reflecting their scientific knowledge of the animals they hunt; all botanical species, whether functional or not, are named; and there is an elaborate set of terms to describe ecological niches where particular plants and trees grow, niches that attract specific game animals and provide edible berries, seeds, and tubers or arrow poison and herbal medicines.

Nine verbs for ‘squeeze’ express the subtleties of extracting edible material from intestines, insects, and the pulp of moisture-bearing tubers. Drinking hot or cold liquid, whether kneeling or not, from an ostrich egg or through a straw, from the rumen of an antelope or the pulp of a tuber, to quench one’s thirst or not, needs 10 different verbs. Stalking prey unsighted, sighted, at a run, or as a feline requires 4 different verbs. More than 20 words describe subtle differences in the taste or texture of food, testifying to a gourmet sensitivity to the hunter-gatherer menu.

At the same time there are elaborations in vocabulary that are not obviously functional, such as the 13 verbs for ‘carry’ and the 26 verbs for ‘sit’; the attention to the vertical or horizontal orientation of one as opposed to many things leads to 25 different verbs for ‘put.’ Finally, a rich and colourful vocabulary of insults provides some verbal lubrication for the workings of the social categories of respect and familiarity and the obligations, generosity, and meanness of the participants.

There is a rich and well-documented folklore of the Khoisan languages. Most of the languages are unwritten, but Nama, Naro, and Ju have practical orthographies and teaching materials. Nama has a long tradition of literacy, and it even boasts a radio service. Click here for an audio clip of a news report in the Nama language.

Anthony Traill

Classification Of The Khoisan Languages


WRITTEN BY: Oswin R.A. Köhler & Anthony Traill

A traditional linguistic classification of the Southern African Khoisan languages divides them into three effectively unrelated groups: Northern, Central, and Southern. Sandawe of Tanzania has a distant relationship to the Central group, but the place of Hadza even in relation to Sandawe has always been unclear; and the status of Kwadi, an extinct language of Namibe (formerly Moçâmedes) in southwestern Angola, remains uncertain. Kwadi may be very distantly related to the Khoe group.

Within each group one finds more or less closely related languages and dialects with distinctive grammatical or lexical features, but between groups there are pronounced linguistic differences. In a more refined subdivision of the languages, the geographic adjectives are replaced by the names for ‘person’ in each major cluster of languages, so that Ju replaces Northern, Khoe replaces Central, and !Kwi and Taa expand Southern.


The Ju dialects !Xũ, Ju | hoã, and ǂKx’au ǁ ’eĩ are spoken by about 11,000 people mainly in northeastern Namibia and adjacent parts of Ngamiland in Botswana; there also may be a few speakers in southern Angola. The Khoe languages—notably the Khoekhoe group, consisting of Nama (officially called Khoekhoegowab) of Namibia, with about 230,000 speakers, and !Ora and Gri (both extinct) of South Africa—are the most numerous.

The majority of the remaining Khoe languages and dialects of the Non-Khoekhoe (NKK) group, which altogether comprise about 66,000 speakers, are found over the whole of western, central, and northern Botswana. Of the so-called Western NKK languages, Naro is spoken in the west (with a few speakers in adjacent parts of Namibia), | Gui and ǁGana are spoken in the west-central area, and Buga and ǁAni are spoken to the north in the Okavango delta. (Kxoe, which is closely related to the latter, is found in the Caprivi Strip, Namibia, and along the Kwando River in southeastern Angola.)

The Shua and Tshua groups of languages are spoken in the eastern parts of Botswana. The Taa dialects of the Southern group, consisting of closely related varieties of !Xóõ, are spoken by fewer than 2,500 people in southwestern Botswana (click here for an audio clip of the !Xóõlanguage). The extinct !Kwi dialects of the Southern group, such as | Xam, ǁXegwi, ǁNg, and |’Auni, were spoken in South Africa; of the !Kwi dialects, only ǂKhomani is still spoken, by a few individuals in Northern Cape province.

ǂΗuã, a language of southeastern Botswana with fewer than 100 speakers, shares features with both the Southern and the Ju groups. In East Africa, Sandawe is spoken by 70,000 people in Tanzania northwest of Dodoma, and Hadza is spoken by some 800 in north-central Tanzania near Lake Eyasi. The hypothesis of a genetic relationship between all these languages leads to the postulation of a Macro-Khoisan family represented in the form of the family tree.

The dotted line connecting Hadza to the root reflects uncertainty about its membership in the family, and the alignment of Sandawe’s and Kwadi’s separate branches alongside the Khoe group posits a possible but remote connection between those branches. The evidence for a subgroup of genetically related Southern African Khoisan languages in the tree is, however, very thin and of such uneven quality that the reality of a Macro-Khoisan family has been questioned.

Conventional methods of linguistic comparison applied between the main groups of the Khoisan languages have failed to yield regular sound correspondences, which would allow common roots to be reconstructed; and shared innovations in grammatical structure, which are regarded as the best source of evidence for postulating linguistic relationships are, frustratingly, absent.


The table illustrates this problem with a few basic words from the main subdivisions. The overwhelming impression is of radical differences between the groups. The word for ‘buffalo’ shows Sandawe’s link to the Khoe group, but the similar form in Ju is most probably a borrowing from a neighbouring Khoe language rather than an inherited form from a common ancestor.

The similarity between the Khoe and !Xóõ forms for ‘drink’ and ‘laugh’ hints at possible sound correspondences between the vowels and the consonants, but this similarity fails to extend to other words in the two groups. The congruent differences between the Ju forms for ‘drink’ and ‘laugh’ on the one hand and the Khoe/!Xóõ forms on the other are intriguing, but, because they fail to generalize, they remain merely tantalizing. Ultimately, linguistic comparisons have led to far too few reasonable correspondences to establish secure family relationships between the languages.

A different approach to the problem of exploring linguistic relatedness involves mass comparisons of words between languages in the different groups. By allowing some flexibility in associating meanings and words rather than insisting on close semantic correspondences and rules of sound change, this technique has yielded some suggestive similarities, with a few of them even extending beyond the Khoisan languages to languages of the Niger-Congo family.

When such cases involve clicks in Khoisan words corresponding to nonclicks in Niger-Congo words, the intractable problem of click genesis and click loss arises. It is possible that the failure to demonstrate Khoisan linguistic relationships convincingly is a function of the limitations of conventional and other comparative methods to penetrate the great time-depth separating the groups.

Anthony Traill

Khoisan languages


WRITTEN BY: Oswin R.A. Köhler & Anthony Traill

Khoisan languages, a unique group of African languages spoken mainly in southern Africa, with two outlying languages found in eastern Africa. The term is a compound adapted from the words khoekhoe ‘person’ and saan ‘bush dweller’ in Nama, one of the Khoisan languages, and scholars have applied the words—either separately or conjoined—to refer to economic, social, physical, and linguistic features of certain aboriginal groups of southern and eastern Africa.

Their most distinctive linguistic characteristic is the original and extensive use of click consonants, a feature which has spread through cultural and linguistic contact into a number of Bantu (Niger-Congo) languages—such as Xhosa, Zulu, and Sotho in South Africa and Gciriku (Diriku), Yei (Yeye), and Mbukushu in Botswana and Namibia—and into Dahalo, a Cushitic (Afro-Asiatic) language of Kenya.

The linguistic use of clicks, whether original or borrowed, is restricted to these few African languages, with one exception: Damin. This ritual vocabulary of the Lardil of Australia contains some words with clicks together with other peculiar sounds, but the use of clicks is limited, and they have a symbolic value in addition to their linguistic function.


The Khoisan languages were once spoken across all of southern Africa from southern Angola in the west to Swaziland in the east and the Cape of Good Hope in the south (see the map). The 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, however, have witnessed the death of many of the recorded languages and dialects, and their distribution is now largely confined to Botswana and Namibia. The fact that many of the surviving languages are endangered and some are even on the point of extinction bears testimony to inexorable social, economic, linguistic, and demographic forces that continue to marginalize and consume indigenous linguistic and cultural minorities.

Hadza (Hatsa), one of the East African Khoisan languages, is a remarkable exception to this, having retained its vitality through a pattern of stable bilingualism with Swahili, the dominant Bantu language in the area. Elsewhere many bilingual Khoisan speakers have tended to shift rapidly to the dominant language, thus ceasing transmission of the mother tongue to children and leaving it to contract and die, sometimes quite abruptly. In South Africa a variation of this process allowed the Khoisan languages to exert a powerful linguistic influence on the dominant languages before they disappeared, leaving Afrikaans and some Bantu languages with a number of distinctive Khoisan features.

The original and unique use of clicks in the Khoisan languages has invited speculation that these unusual sounds might reflect an earlier stage in the evolution of language when sounds were natural vocal adaptations to the environment. In this view Khoisan hunters might have developed clicks to camouflage their presence as they stalked their prey in an environment of insect and other noises or might have responded to various situations with onomatopoetic vocalizations containing clicks. But this line of thinking has proved fruitless.

All languages use sound symbolism to some extent, and, while there are indeed examples of clicks functioning in this way (for example, !ã, the word for the clicking noise made by the knee joints of a walking eland [Taurotragus oryx], contains an appropriate click in one Khoisan language), their normal linguistic function is as unremarkable as the function of more familiar consonants such as b or s in any language. The origin of Khoisan click consonants and their peculiarly African provenance therefore remains a mystery.

One puzzling feature of the Khoisan languages is that, despite some uniformity in their use of clicks, they differ considerably among themselves in aspects such as word formation, sentence structure, and vocabulary. In fact, these differences are so pronounced as to suggest that in a linguistic discussion the term Khoisan should be used only in a loose typological sense to refer to a group of languages that share some features of sound structure (mainly involving clicks) and not as the name of a language family in the strict sense—such as Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, or Bantu—in which some shared features are found at all levels of structure and these features are assumed to have been inherited from a common ancestral language.

Even though the sound structure of the Khoisan languages is unique, their resemblance to each other in this respect has not provided the evidence needed to unravel all their internal genetic affiliations, let alone their relationships to other African languages. The debate about these relationships remains a prominent feature in the linguistic study of Khoisan languages, and the disagreements that sustain it have never been satisfactorily resolved.



From sand to sky: Divine thread links the San with nature

by Beauregard Tromp

29 Mar 2018 00:00 Mail and Guardian


Here in the Kalahari, where the stars shine more brightly and the dunes still cast shadows long after the searing sun has melted into the horizon, the red hills carry the same din as a train station.

Here a toktokkie paints a tiny crooked path along the edge of the dust-fine dune. And here a springhaas moves carefully, lingering on the top with its long duster-like tail, settling daintily, likely surveying the scene below and beyond, before departing in a rapid trail of elongated hare prints. A millipede also comes this way, its careful symphony of movements tracing elegant lines in the sand. There is an eland, too. And, here, another print that looks like an antelope’s cloven hoof. But, below this too-perfect imprint lies a buck spoor spider, its deceitful trap set, carefully biding its time. Meanwhile, the long strands of vegetation have left their brush marks in the powdery sand, forming a natural wind vane.

For the Khomani San, there is a knit here, an intimate connection of people and nature, each tiny thread a seamless manifestation of God.

God is in the small things. Buck Spoor Spider.

At night, an elder points to the heavens and gestures to beyond the Morning and Evening stars, even beyond the Milky Way, where an even greater power lies.

Regularly, this connection with God, who manifests herself in the plurality of nature, is affirmed when the San dancers gather and a slow fire licks at the sky. And, while the sun charts it path, slow and considered, the traditional dance begins. A circle is formed. It is less a dance than a step and shuffle. Ta-ta, ta-ta, ta, ta, ta-ta-ta.

!Qopan Kruiper breaks out into a step at any opportunity. There are jokes aplenty, this time at the expense of a doellose tril (purposeless prick), the “trrr” rattling on the tongue and palate of the accuser. Or Barbara, whose too-round shape meant she thrust a hip instead of the kick she was supposed to perform.

But there’s serious business at hand.

During the trance dance, as the clap and the dulled thump-thump of heel strikes grow, the hartebees appears, its nostrils flaring and tail whipping. Ta-ta, ta-ta, ta, ta, ta, ta-ta. Then the lion, its back arched and jaw grabbing huge mouthfuls of air. Many are wary of the risk of going so deep into the trance, so far into the realm of the spirit, that you may never return.


One dancer who channelled the !xooke (lion) has still not returned to his human form.

Kruiper left school in grade five, begging his father rather to let him learn from him, here, in the veld, than have to suffer the Protestant education that so frustrated him.

His father, like his father before him, would teach him the way of his people. How to track animals across the desertscape, identifying the plants that will nourish, replenish and treat various ailments. How the jackal is a deceitful friend who can never be trusted. How the lonely steenbok, so elated at having found a mate, was struck by a deep sadness when it lost her, and decided to spend the rest of its days in mourning and alone. How the spirit of lion came to be inside the !gamka wood and bring its carrier strength.


They are you and you are them, his father would impart.

“My mother told me: ‘Son, you can lose many things but, once you lose your language, you have lost your culture and yourself.’”

In the tiny settlement of Andriesvale, 200km north of Upington in the Northern Cape, a smattering of stone, wood and zinc houses is home to many Khomani San, here on the edge of the Kgalagadi National Park. The all-too-familiar ailments of substance abuse and unemployment cast a long shadow here.

Along a side road, men and women dressed in traditional skins lounge near the entrance of a popular tourist lodge. It’s nearly time for the Kalahari Desert Festival, an opportunity to showcase the Khomani San culture and also to bring some much-needed tourism to the area.

A police van arrives. The policeman wants to “sabela” with “madoda”. This is prison gang language. There’s been a report of domestic violence and the suspect has gone missing. “Die nommer is vol,” the policeman shouts before driving off.

Later a minibus taxi with an address in Mitchells Plain in the Cape pulls up. In a whirlwind of colours, a young man and his videographer spill out, immediately breaking out into rap, all the while speaking to his phone for a live video feed. “I’m here with the Khoi-Khoi, the original people …”

“Yes, but do you know Early B?” is all Kruiper offers, while posing with the rapper, who has now taken to reciting the list of 55 African countries before racing back to the taxi and departing, leaving behind a stunned silence.

Less than a kilometre away, beyond the tar road and dust paths, Kruiper has stripped off his jeans, T-shirt and All Stars for his loincloth. “We were the first people to wear G-strings,” he quips. For Kruiper, this is where he belongs, “a professor of nature”, watching the congregation of vultures gathering at their church atop a dune.

God is in the small things. Leftovers from a Wake of Vultures.

He digs carefully at the base of the !koega plant, burrowing nearly double its height down, down into the ground to reveal a long tubular root. Here in the Kalahari roots run deep, carefully storing their succulent treasure away from the unremitting sun. Kruiper cradles the plant in one hand, the other carefully brushing off the fine dry sand before expertly twisting and breaking off the root.

He will use this root to cure a pain that is not yet with him. Then he reaches up to his short dreadlocks, twists and deposits a lock of his hair into the earth before replanting the !koega. “For whatever you take, you must offer something of yourself in return,” Kruiper states.

Where others may see an undulating landscape of dunes and flatlands, to the Khomani San these are distinct streets, each defined by the dominant animal whose droppings lie haphazardly scattered around bushes. Or the specific plants that might only grow here and not be seen again for many a rise and fall of this desert landscape.


“All that we need to know, all the questions we have, the answer is here,” says community elder Izak Rooikat Kruiper, gesturing to a fiery horizon that knows no bounds.

“We are born here in this nature and we are a part of it. From the smallest little beetle to the eland. We are all a part of Her.”


Khoisan Ritual

Cited from:

The central theme of almost all Khoikhoi ritual was the idea of transformation, or transition from one state to another. Most rituals marked the critical periods of change in a person’s life – birth, puberty, adulthood, marriage and death. The transition rites formed part of the social process.

The ritual and festive activity which took place when a child was born often recurred in other Khoikhoi rituals. Prior to delivery, the mother to be was taken to a hut where she remained for at least seven days after delivery. Both she and the child were seen to be vulnerable and so certain avoidances were practised. No men were allowed to enter the hut, the mother and baby had to avoid inessential contact with water. For the first three months, the child was fed on goats or cows milk and not from the mother’s milk. A special fire was also lit in the hut. After this period of seclusion, both were ceremonially reintroduced into society. Their bodies were smeared with cowdung, fat and buchu (a fragrant plant). The rituals of incorporation were accompanied by a feast in which members of the kraal and blood relations from other kraals participated.

The key elements of all Khoikhoi ceremonies involved a period of seclusion associated with vulnerability and danger. During these periods certain things, notably water, were avoided, whilst others, such as fire and buchu were associated with protection. The ceremonies also involved a clear process of reincorporation into society, but as persons with new roles.

Domestic stock seem always to have been associated with protection. During initiation ceremonies, stock were killed and the omentum, part of the animal’s intestine, was hung around the neck of individuals to show that they were going through change or transition.

The rituals also reveal something about social relationships and status in Khoikhoi society. Wealthy stock-owners gained prestige by their ability to provide stock for the feasts they hosted. Marriage involved the transfer of cattle.

The emphasis on transition rituals to mark an inidividual’s change in status shows clearly how important age was in defining status in Khoikhoi society. This emphasis can also be found in kinship terms used by the Khoikhoi. Specific terms were used to refer to older or younger siblings. There were also specific terms to differentiate maternal aunts who were older from those younger than the mother.

An awareness of the way in which cattle were a part of the social and political life of Khoikhoi society is crucial to understanding the differences in worldview. To the Khoikhoi, cattle were not seen as a product to be bought and sold, they had ritual and social significance far beyond monetary value. When the Khoikhoi started to trade some of their stock, a contradiction within the trading partnership with the Dutch began. Theft, coercion and non-productive exchange (livestock for alcohol, copper, beads etc) loss of stock produced a downward spiral that the Khoikhoi could not break. The breakdown of the social and economic values of the Khoikhoi went hand in hand with greater dependency, and increasing reliance by the Khoikhoi on the Dutch as mediators in disputes, and in growing Dutch interference in the raiding patterns between groups of Khoikhoi.

Cited: The copyright in the material used for this post rests with the publisher, David Boyce. Please contact them directly at if you have any queries relating to the information provided in the content of this post.

Why Are The Khoisan Still Not Officially Recognised As South Africa’s First People?

Three Khoisan leaders are camping outside the Union Buildings to make their claims official.

By Garreth Van Niekerk

NEWS 08/12/2017 06:52 SAST | Updated 08/12/2017 08:28 SAST

Concerns have been raised about the lack of transformation for South Africa’s indigenous people after the three Khoisan leaders who are staging a sit-in outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria has reached day three of their protest.

The trio, who walked for three weeks from the Eastern Cape to the capital city, are demanding that their status as the indigenous people of the country be officially recognised, and particularly that the Constitution changes their status as “coloureds” to instead be referred to as Khoisan.

The trio have been sleeping in a tent on the lawns outside the buildings for three days.

They also want 1913 Land Claims Act to be removed, saying it prevents them from claiming land.

“We had land long before that time, being the first nation. We don’t want to be referred to as coloureds, rather call us Khoisan, Bushmen, San or Nama, but we are not coloureds,” the chief said.

He added: “This is not the first time we are making this call and we are prepared to wait for them to accept our memorandum. We are a patient people.”


Long-awaited recognition for W Cape Khoisan



Cape Town – The Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill 2015 could give effect to the Western Cape having its own House of Traditional Affairs, which will recognise the Khoisan and their leaders.

The bill is currently before the provincial standing committee on local government in the Western Cape Legislature, with public-participation meetings planned for later this month.

Masizole Mnqasela, chairperson of the standing committee on local government said it is vital for the first inhabitants of not only the Western Cape, but also the country.

“I therefore call on the Khoisan communities, which includes the Cape-Khoi, Griqua, Nama, Korana and San people; and relevant stakeholders and entities to not only avail themselves for the public hearings, but to also actively make written and oral submissions.”

Aaron Messelaar, administrator of the Griqau Royal House said they are going to participate in the public-participation process to highlight the unfairness of the bill.

“There are certain aspects of the bill that is not in line with the constitution. Even the constitution does not recognise the Khoisan leaders.

“Khoisan leaders are also not really recognised as important as other tribes and traditional leaders. That is my main problem.

“We cannot move forward if there are parts of society that remain marginalised.

“We also want the power to be given to the traditional leaders. The premiers should merely endorse whoever is elected by the people.

“We are however very glad that there is this public-participation process.”

Mnqasela said: “There are however problems with certain clauses of the legislation. We are worried about how traditional leaders will be recognised. Also, we need to look at the number of traditional leaders we have in the province.

“We would need a provincial house of traditional leaders if this goes ahead.

“But the details of this is still sketchy. We have however asked National Treasury to carry the cost of all related infrastructure.”

Mnqasela added the bill aims to address the current limitations of existing legislation, pertaining to sections of the National House of Traditional Leaders Act 2009.

The first public hearings will be held on April 10 in the Central Karoo.

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This is the Motivation I submitted in calling Krotoa International Airport:


By Joseph Ruiters

This is the Motivation I submitted in calling Krotoa International Airport:

The history of Cape Town and the Cape Province hasn’t started when the ANC was formed – so too the struggle of the people in this province. We (the legitimate owners of the land) have been confused, undermined and been encouraged to create a climate to work against each other whereby the perpetrators accessed the beauty and wealth of our land and the province. We see this renaming as the beginning of our Vindication & Justice as a people been robbed of their land. We respect stalwarts like Winnie Mandela and others that played a part and led the way in this Vindication. If we compare Winnie with Krotoa it is clear the suffering endured by Winnie cannot be compared to the great humiliation suffered by Krotoa with the result of losing her land and be the mother of the first coloured child (a child that was force upon her due to a rape).

By renaming Cape Town International to Krotoa International is a beginning of Vindication to us and our forefathers whose blood and bones are calling from their graves for Justice. Justice is all we ask. We as the generations of this slave mother, Krotoa have not seen the rewards and vindication through the inhumanly acts against her and our people. When you look at Krotoa’s face in the picture (which can be confirmed by any phycologist) you will see the abuse, the rape, the cries, the hurt, the helplessness, the pain …

Since 1652 we’ve “spent locked up in a cage, considered a danger to society, not treated like a human being, not treated like a person. We served our time in a house of justice, and yet there’s no justice for us. So, I ask you to consider the evidence. Don’t turn away from the truth. Don’t turn away from your conscience. Please, don’t ignore the law. No, embrace that higher principle for which the law was meant to serve. Justice is all I ask”.

We would humbly ask you to do the right thing. You all know what is the truth. The truth is the legitimate owners found here is the Khoisan. God knows it and He is a Just God and all Righteousness belongs to Him. Do the right thing. If you don’t do it – it will happen in generations to come, because He is a Righteous and Just God.

Prophet Joe Ruiters

Krotoa International Airport – Cape Town


Transformation, economic transformation – the key word used these days by politicians when it comes to the affairs of South Africa or when they require votes to win. Transformation can only take place, if all South Africans are included in this transformation process. As part of the Transformation of Heritage Landscape Programme, four of South Africa’s airports has been earmarked for name changes. To ensure all is fair as per the South Africa’s Geographical Names Council Act, an official public participation and contribution process has been underway and the deadline for comments from the public is set for today 6 June 2018.

Over the last few days, there has been debates on whether to name the Cape Town International airport after the Khoisan Mother of the Nation – Krotoa. Who is Krotoa and why is she so important to the history of the Khoisan people of South Africa. Krotoa also known as Eva, was the niece of Autshumao, a Khoi leader and interpreter to the Dutch. When Krotoa was the age of 10 or 11 years old, she was taken to Jan van Riebeeck. She worked as a servant to the Jan’s wife, Maria van Riebeek, and was first cited in van Riebeek’s diary in January 1654 as ‘a girl who had lived with us’. She learnt Dutch and Portuguese and responded to Christian instruction given her by Maria. She played the middle person between the Dutch and the Khoisan Nation.

On 26 April 1664, Eva’s engagement to Danish soldier and explorer Pieter van Meerhof was announced. As it was only 12 years after van Riebeek’s landing at the Cape, marriages between Whites and Natives were not forbidden at this time. She had 2 kids (coloured babies) and for a while Krotoa remained a respectable member of European society, however she started drinking heavily and turned to prostitution. In March 1669 she was banished to Robben Island for wicked and immoral behaviour. She died on the Island 5 years later on 29 July 1674 and was buried the next day in the church of the new Castle. Click here for more on Krotoa

Regarding the name being changed to Krotoa, Krotoa’s history, it’s clear that Krotoa should be granted the recognition she deserves. For years the Khoisan nation has been pushed to the back, not being recognised as the first people of the nation.  We are living in a country where South Africans don’t know the history of the country, yet they want entitlement to land and recognition. The view of some people is that of “why name it to someone who no one knows”. Exactly, why does no one know about this important person? Because history has been told to highlight the victories of certain groups neglecting the first people of this beautiful nation. It’s time for change and it is time to ensure that all South Africans in this country get the recognition they deserve.  Naming the airport Krotoa International Airport will be the first step in ensuring that the Khoisan people are being recognised as the first people of this nation.

By Shahieda Samson

Information cited from:


Khoisan people of South Africa were once the most populous humans on Earth.

14 DECEMBER, 2014 – 01:01 MARK MILLER


The Khoisan, an indigenous population in Namibia, may once have comprised the majority of living humans on the planet, for much of the past 150,000 years. The Khoisan population declined about 22,000 years ago and again during the 17th century’s European colonialists’ incursions into Africa. The new study by geneticists published in Nature Communications , reviewed by the journal Science, revealed that the Khoisan, now numbering about 100,000, are a genetically diverse group because of a large ancestral population in the distant past. The name ‘Khoisan’ generally refers to the hunters and herders of a number of ethnic groups that speak a distinctive click language, although it is not the name that the population use for themselves. Historically, there were two groups of peoples in the Khoisan language family, the Khoi Khoi pastoralists or herders, and the San, who were hunters and gatherers. Today, they are known collectively as the Khoisan.

Adverse climatic conditions in Africa caused by glaciation in the Northern Hemisphere prior to 22,000 years ago reduced human populations, but Southern Africa maintained a good climate, reports, which also reviewed the new genetic study. Good weather results in easier living conditions and plentiful food, so populations known collectively as the Khoisan thrived. Khoisan, people known for their rare click language, may have been the most numerous humans, but they remain genetically distinct from Europeans, Asians and other Africans.

Some of these other groups moved out of Africa and populated Europe, Asia and the rest of the planet around the same time that Khoisan people were in the majority, says. “Khoisan hunter-gatherers in Southern Africa always have perceived themselves as the oldest people” said Stephan Schuster, a former Penn State University professor, now at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and a leader of the research team.
The study looked at 420,000 genetic variants across 1,462 genomes from 48 ethnic groups. “These analyses reveal that Southern African Khoisans are genetically distinct not only from Europeans and Asians, but also from all other Africans,” reports
Previous research has also suggested that Khoisan people may be directly descended from mankind’s oldest common paternal ancestors. DNA studies in the 1990s, found that the Y chromosome of San men, one of the indigenous populations making up the Khoisan, share certain patterns of genetic variation that are different from those of all other populations. It was theorized that the San are one of the first populations to have differentiated from the most recent common paternal ancestor of all extant humans, estimated to have lived 60,000 to 90,000 years ago.

Researchers found that through history Khoisan intermarried little with other ethnic groups, which helped preserve their genetic uniqueness. “This and previous studies show that the Khoisan peoples and the rest of modern humanity shared their most recent common ancestor approximately 150,000 years ago, so it was entirely unexpected to find that this group apparently did not intermarry with non-Khoisan neighbors for many thousand years,” said Webb Miller, professor of Bioinformatics at Penn State and a member of the research team, as reported on “The current Khoisan culture and tradition, where marriage occurs either among Khoisan groups or results in female members leaving their tribes after marrying non-Khoisan men, appears to be long-standing.”

Khoisan people required men from one clan to marry women from other clans. Khoisan villages consisted of more than 100 people living in cone-shaped huts. The villagers were men from the same clan with their wives and children. Villages were united into groups known as tribes or hordes. Khoisan-speaking people were decimated by European colonialists, their lands stolen and cultures suppressed. In 2012, South African President Jacob Zuma said the Khoisan suffered the most of any group under European colonialism. “It is important to remember that the Khoisan people were the most brutalized by colonialists who tried to make them extinct, and undermined their language and identity. As a free and democratic South Africa today, we cannot ignore to correct the past,” he said, as reported in South African History Online.

Khoisan populations were wiped out by war and smallpox. European settlers stole much of their land. As herders and hunters, the Khoisan needed large areas to graze their animals, hunt and gather food. Their population was further decimated by loss of livelihood due to land theft. Though much historical Khoisan territory is now farmed, some Khoisan still live their traditional lives of hunting and gathering or herding.