SAN: Kgala, meaning “the great thirst”, or




Kalahari Desert a
“thirstland” described by early European settlers, although it receives too
much rainfall annually but due to its vast expanses of sand leaves nothing on the
ground. Kalahari is derived from the Tswana word Kgala,
meaning “the great thirst”, or Kgalagadi, meaning “a
waterless place”. The Kalahari Desert stretched around 360000
aquare miles across Namibia, Botswana, and SouthAfrica.

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Animals living
there have adapted either to survive many days without water, or to obtain
water from plants, so as humans. In this extremely dry condition, San a diverse
group of tribes also known as Bushmen of Kalahari living there since 20,000

San are **the
oldest inhabitants of South Africa** they were first introduced to world by  by South African author Laurens van der Post in 1950s, their ancestors are considered to be first peoples to live in
what now called Botswana and South Africa.



are descendants of Early Stone Age ancestors who live in small groups who
follow seasonal migration from mountains to coastline. Their ancestors were
lived in cave made under stones or mountains as they keep migrating from time
to time, they don’t row crops or domesticate animals however they have good
knowledge about flora and fauna.

the early beginning of Christianity era people starts deviding some who owned
few animals like goats and sheep mainly moved towards western and southern part
of the South Africa. This migrated group is called Hottentot or Khoikhoi they
lived by gathering wild plants and animals. At the same time another migration
occurred in the eastern part of the country where the group of people who speak
“BaNta” moved to south to grow crops and settle village, thus in the middle of
17th century the whole country was devided into three communities.

san people are still as there ancestors as a set of tools discovered at border
cave in Kwazulu-Natal in 2002 shows the tools found which was dating to
44,000BCE is similar to tools used by the modern san peoples.



people believed in equality for all although they had a hereditary chief but
every decision is taken by long discussions among themselves, here women’s were
given equal value and hence treated same.

people follow name and age rule, new born children were named after their
ancestors mainly after their grandparents and for resolving any disputes they
follow age rule as the elder ones will given more priorities over the


of san peoples are very hard as the temperature of Kalahari fluctuates a lot,
in summer the day temperature reaches to 45 degrees Celsius while in the cold
nights of winter the temperature drops to -15 degrees Celsius.

they were remained on their ancestral living style so its quite hard to live in
such harsh environment. In hot summer when days are extremely hot then no
surface water left, the draught may last for many months but san people have
adapted in such conditions due  to their
deep knowledge of wild herbs. They mainly use bibulb plant to extract water in
sumer or they make deep hole where sand is in shed and use hollow grass stem as
straw to suck water, mostly empty egg shells of ostrich egg were used as a
water container


is no restrictions or duties given to childrens, they mostly spent their time
in playing, group discussion, music and their sacred dance.


in the san society were given higher status and were greatly respected and
sometimes considered as the leader of their own family. They collect berries,
fruits firewood, digging sticks and other herbs for their family while men go
for hunt. Thus being an old traditional living tries san people has good values
for womens.



peoples are good hunters they mostly hunt in team, they used different
techniques to hunt different animals depends on the animal size and the

hunt small animas like guinea fowls, duikers or hares they make traps by
twisting small plant and a thread is tied to one end of the plant and a loose
knot is made at other end and held on the ground with help of small twig.

also make deep conical pitfalls near rivers or other water sources and neatly
cover them by branches and leaves, a sharp stake is inserted in the bottom
center of the hole, thus if ny animal steps on the hole then it falls o the

hunt large animals they mainly use bow and arrow, the bow and arrow were used
were small as it is not meant to kill animal its the deadly poison on the tip
of the arrow which can kill nearly anyone. The poison was made by mixing a
caterpillar (known as “Ka” or ‘Ngwa”) is mixed with wild roots thus a poisonous
paste is made, though poison takes time to kill depends on animal size, once
the arrow hits the animal, the san hunters patiently tracks animal for few
hours until it dies.


people believe in one superior God who have created everything while the
presence of lesser gods have also seen in their worship, they have strong
believes in spirits and one spiritual being called “/kaggen”, the
trickster-deity appeared in many forms and can be observed in many myths and in
some spiritual worships.



san rock paintings can be in the rocky areas of Kwazulu-Natal their paintings
mainly contains strange human figure and animals mainly Eland.

believe in painting Eland is not just to give respect but also show essence and
they believed that by giving them respect they will open portal of spiritual
world for them.

paintings were mostly of red, orange, white, brown and black in colour, they
never used green or blue colour. These colours were made of different stones
like charcoal or manganese oxide for black, sometimes blood of Eland and other
religious significant were mixed to make colour.



every tribe is famous for their own dance so as san they give prime importance
to their ritual dance.

often dance in many occasions as in marriage ceremony or for healing illness
and rain dance for rain

you can see in above video in rain dance the women sits in a circle surrounding
the fire where they sang and clap and men dance in a line around the fire first
clockwise then anticlockwise as time passes the song become louder and the
intensity of dance increases.



san people are suffering with very hard times, as some diamonds reserve are
found in their land in early 1980, so government told the bushmen to leave
their land as they found diamonds there so they’re planning to make diamond

in 1997, 2002 and 2005 with three big clearances nearly every bushmen were
forced to live out as their homes were destroyed and trucked away from their

2006 court have given back their right to go back to their land, but government
tried every step to stop it they even cemented their water holes and banned to
dig more. Many san peoples were died with dehydration and starvation.

who have agreed with government and shifted from the Kalahari central reserve
were given few cattles by the government but san people have never domesticated
any animal so its hard for them to live in their new life.

small group of san are living on their ancestral place, they have retained many
ancient ancestral practices but compromised in certain fields and now adapted
strategies for social, political and economic survival.

unfortunately these simple traditional san people soon be extinct and then you
can only find their culture, beliefs and their traditions in historical books,
journals and in documentaries.