San of the Kalahari

San of the Kalahari


San Bushman, Botswana

An indigenous people of southern Africa, the San Bushmen live chiefly in Botswana, Namibia and southwest Angola. Although they have been largely resettled by the government of Botswana from their traditional homes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, there are still a small number of families who live as hunter gatherers giving evidence of an ancient way of life which may be over 40,000 years old.

Carrying only bow and arrow, the San Bushmen hunt daily for wild animals for sustenance, the eland being their sacred animal. The women are gatherers, collecting berries, seeds, roots and tubers. They are also responsible for building the encampments of dome-shaped grass huts. Using both glass trade beads and other beads cut from ostrich eggshells, the women are renowned for their beading of hide skirts and small leather pouches.

When a young girl gets her first period, she must isolate for two days while women circle her hut clapping and dancing to honour her new found maturity. The elders select the most eligible boy for her partner, but the ultimate decision is hers.

San Bushman trance dancing enables individuals to enter the spirit world and draw on the healing powers of the sacred eland. The trance dance bonds all members of the community and relieves stress and contention. The community is said to be “Dancing eland potency”.