Bushmen perhaps the world's 'first people'
09 December 2014, 13:03
Maun - About 100 000 Bushmen remain in southern Africa. Most of them live in Botswana (50 000) and Namibia (38 000).
They are also known by other names, such as San, Basarwa or Kua. Many of them like the word Bushman, which does not carry a negative connotation for them.
The Bushmen speak Khoe-San languages characterised by click sounds.
A 2011 study by Stanford University said the Bushmen were the genetically most diverse human group known to exist in Africa, where modern humans originated.
That suggests they could be descendants of the ancestral source, or of one of several sources from which all modern humans diverged, carrying away portions of the available diversity when they left southern Africa and started spreading around the world about 60 000 years ago.
The Bushmen include some of Africa's last hunter-gatherer groups. They still follow cultural practices dated back tens of thousands of years, such as ostrich eggshell beads or the bow and arrow.
Until the late 19th century, Bushman groups living outside the Kalahari desert made rock paintings depicting dances and shamanic visions that can be found in thousands of locations in southern Africa.
The Bushmen have aroused popular and scientific curiosity since they were first written about in the 17th century. In the 19th century, some of them were taken to Europe, where they were exhibited to audiences seeking entertainment.
The Bushmen have suffered centuries of discrimination, with some European colonialists hunting them like animals and Botswana's dominant Tswana ethnic group keeping them as serfs.
"Being a Bushman is still like committing a sin in Botswana," activist Jumanda Gakelebone said. "When children do bad things, they are told not to act like a Bushman."