Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Botswana's Bushmen Return Home

Botswana's Bushmen return home: After winning a long court battle with Botswana’s government, the Bushmen of the Kalahari can now drill new water wells and return to their ancestral lands.

Botswana's Bushmen return home, with rights but little water | The New Age Online

Botswana's Bushmen return home, with rights but little water | The New Age Online

Where do you find the Bushmen Today?

Small communities of Bushmen are widely distributed in Southern Angola, Namibia and Botswana. The natural geographical migration of people, government policies, globalisation and modern society had a huge impact on their traditional way of living. Very few of them still live like they used to live. The majority of them are confined to settlements that had forced them to adapt to a way of living that they are not accustomed to, and that they do not particularly like. This unfortunately has led to various social problems in Bushmen communities. The Bushmen today are still marginalised and more than often looked upon as “intruders” by other ethnic groups sharing communities with them.

More or less 100 000 San, belonging to more than 13 different language groups, continue to live in the Southern African region.  The majority of them are in Botswana and Namibia, whose populations number 46 000 and 38 000 respectively.  In Angola there are 7000 San and in South Africa there are 6000. Zambia and Zimbabwe also contain small San communities numbering just a few hundred.

Where the Bushmen Used to Live (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.  

Where the Bushmen Used to Live (The 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.