With a population of about 80,000 between Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, the first people in South Africa were known as the Khoisan or African San Bushman. They are popular for their language, which includes the sound of clicking, their nomadic way of life, and their closeness to nature.
Unfortunately, due to their “less modern” lifestyle, they are the target of human exploitation and hunting. Because they were a minority of the southern African population, they were also driven from their land. Currently, the survival of San and culture is in a precarious position with an uncertain future.
The San were known throughout southern Africa as nomadic hunter-gatherers who survived overseas and roamed mostly undergrowth. However, these San people were forced into small areas for various reasons such as agriculture, national park creation, and mining. Today they can be found in relatively small groups around Pan Makgadikgadi.
In the past, the Bushmen were known for their beauty and charm (including their rock art, which is thousands of years old and can be found in caves and rock cliffs across the country). They were great southern African artists, using various pigments obtained from ocher, eggs, mineral deposits and blood to create stunning and captivating paintings of humans and animals.
These paintings are now representations of the daily life of these people in the past. Thanks to cave paintings in the Drakensberg Mountains, we know that the area was once inhabited by wildlife such as leopards, eland and elephants, which are now extinct in the area.
Contrary to the ideology that the paintings depict the daily life of the Bushmen, there is a modern theory linking the paintings to spiritual beings. It is believed that shamans use caves as sacred places to communicate with the spiritual realm.
It is believed that the paintings are the entrance to this spiritual realm and are also records of the encounters between divine beings and Bushmen.
However, anthropologists believe rock art is a representation of the famous magical trance dance that was popular in San and that brought the whole community together.
Magical trance dances are also known as healing dances and are very important to Bushmen customs and beliefs.
When performing the trance dance, community members keep the rhythm by clapping and singing at the same time. The shamans and community elders who lead the ceremony then dance around the bonfire while stepping on, clapping, and imitating various animals.
During dance, exertion accompanied by hyperventilation induces a strong trance-like state. In this trance San can enter the spirit world. Healing dances are known for several functions, from seemingly curing ailments to eliminating “star diseases” that cause quarrels, jealousy, malice and anger.
The San tribe was treated as unimportant. However, in certain areas, remnants of the San culture can be seen where they are deliberately preserved. The ancient rock art of San is presented in full splendor at various sites in southern Africa.
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