EyeReport, South Africa - 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'. This term was given to the San during their long battle against the colonists. The San interpreted this as a proud and respected reference to their brave fight for freedom from domination and colonization. Many now accept the terms Bushmen or San. Like the first people to inhabit other countries in the world, the San have an unfortunate history of poverty, social rejection, decline of cultural identity and the discrimination of their rights as a group. Yet, the San have also received the attention of anthropologists and the media with their survival and hunting skills, wealth of indigenous knowledge of the flora and fauna of Southern Africa, and their rich cultural traditions. San people speak numerous dialects of a group of languages known for the characteristic 'clicks' that can be heard in their pronunciation, represented in writing by symbols such as ! or /. Made up of small mobile groups, San communities comprise up to about 25 men, women and children. At certain times of the year groups join for exchange of news and gifts, for marriage arrangements and for social occasions. Historical background: Not related to the BaNtu tribes, the San are descendants of Early Stone Age ancestors. Clans and loosely connected family groups followed seasonal game migrations between mountain range and coastline. They made their homes in caves, under rocky overhangs or in temporary shelters. These migratory people do not domesticate animals or cultivate crops, even though their knowledge of both flora and fauna is vast. The San categorized thousands of plants and their uses, from nutritional to medicinal, mystical to recreational and lethal. San men have a formidable reputation as trackers and hunters. San trackers will follow the 'spoor' (tracks) of an animal across virtually any kind of surface or terrain. Their skills even enable them to distinguish between the “spoor” of a wounded animal and that of the rest of the herd.