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10 Beautiful Images of the Khoisan People of Southern Africa, From Whom All Modern Humans Descended

• Aug 13, 2015

The Khoisan people are an indigenous hunter‐gatherer people of Southern Africa whose roots are literally ancient. Khoisan are one of the 14 people groups from which all humanity descended and Khoisan tools have been found dating back to 44,000 BC. They are spread across Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

One broad study of African genetic diversity completed in 2009 found that the San were among the five populations with the highest measured levels of genetic diversity among the 121 distinct African populations sampled. The San are one of 14 known extant “ancestral population clusters” from which all known modern humans descend.

Despite this, the Khoisan have faced a challenging modern existence, fielding attacks from both European settles and fellow Africans.

They are second‐class citizens in the lands of their birth, and suffer daily discrimination at the hands of other ethnic groups. Not so long ago, Tswana tribespeople referred to their San servants as “bulls” and “heifers.” One Motswana, seeing a group of San children playing, said, “If only they went to school they would be people.”…

The San’s history is not unique. Virtually all southern African peoples have experienced wrenching cultural change, war, dispossession, and ethnocide. But the San’s plight was compounded by their status as social outcasts, not only in the eyes of European settlers, but by their fellow Africans as well. As described in the important comprehensive five‐volume study, Regional Assessment of the Status of the San in Southern Africa, edited by James Suzman (2001), surviving San were the subjects of special statutes in every country they lived in. Their nomadic ways, essential to their survival, were treated as vagrancy and suppressed. In certain areas repression and violence continue to the present.

It is a tribute to San resilience and cultural strength that they have overcome many obstacles to retain their language, culture, and religious beliefs, even if circumstances have forced them to give up foraging. Coming to political consciousness, some San have recreated themselves as First Peoples, and, with the assistance of sympathetic outsiders, have fought successfully for land and civil rights. While discrimination remains, governments in the region have begun to recognize the San’s uniqueness and to institute at least some policies in support of San development aspirations.

The Khoisan have a fully egalitarian society;

Children have no social duties besides playing, and leisure is very important to San of all ages. Large amounts of time are spent in conversation, joking, music, and sacred dances. Women have a high status in San society, are greatly respected, and may be leaders of their own family groups. They make important family and group decisions and claim ownership of water holes and foraging areas. Women are mainly involved in the gathering of food, but may also take part in hunting…

Traditionally, the San were an egalitarian society. Although they had hereditary chiefs, their authority was limited. The San made decisions among themselves by consensus, with women treated as relative equals.

They also have a wealth of cultural and geographical knowledge about how to survive in nature;

The San are intelligent trackers and know the habits of their prey. On discovering where a herd has gathered, they immediately test the direction and force of the wind by throwing a handful of dust into the air… The San make use of over 100 edible species of plant. While the men hunt, the women, who are experts in foraging for edible mushrooms, bulbs, berries and melons, gather food for the family.

Here are 10 beautiful images of these incredible people;

World Stock Travel Image - PCL...San Bushmen - Kalahari Desert, Kalahari De

World Stock Travel Image — PCL…San Bushmen — Kalahari Desert, Kalahari De

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Naro bushman (San) mother with child, Central Kalahari, Botswana

Naro bushman (San) mother with child, Central Kalahari, Botswana

hunter san

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The-San-Museum3-(L)

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Khoisan-woman-with-baby-in-sling

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You can read more on the Khoisan’s genetic ancestry here, here and here.

Incredible! Ladies, what are your thoughts?

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Marmaduke
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Marmaduke

So what I’m finding most fascinating is the commonality in eye shape. Looking at them solely as descendants of our earliest ancestors, could this be part of where the “Asian eye shape” comes from? even some of my Nigerian friends have that very distinct appearance. and I’m literally just throwing out theories here. but it’s fascinating! thanks for the knowledge bglh!

vanessa197676
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vanessa197676

My question as well.

Decolonized__
Guest
Decolonized__

This is exactly where that trait, the epicanthic fold, originates. All human traits originate in Africa. This one in particular is evolutionary trait based on the climate there, it’s very good for windy environments that are dry! This is why I personally laugh at most people nowadays who say that different races “own” certain traits. All of these traits are in our dna, the fact that human beings have spread so far apart [and starting mingling with different groups] has either re‐introduced old traits, or developed new ones [since we no longer noticeably ‘evolve’ based on climate]. Being human is… Read more »

R LongPig
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R LongPig

I always wondered that myself — I know lots of black people with the single fold and always wondered if it was simply more than just Asian ancestry in all cases. The genetic diversity in African peoples are so wonderful — sooo much more than the history we are taught! :/ Because as always “Africa” isn’t a country.

Emat
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Emat

Khoisan are part of one of the oldest linage of mankind.
Some scientist believe that a group of ancient Khoisans traveled up East Africa and eventually left Africa through the Horn of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula then into Asia.

Due to environmental conditions they retained many of their features once arriving in Asia.

This is noticeable in some ethnic groups in countries like Cambodia. Many of the khmer people still have strong African like features (curly hair and darker skin). Today the majority of Asians have some degree of African features:
Shorter nose with wide nostrils, high cheekbones, and full lips.

lis
Guest
lis

Why would anyone want to hurt them?…I see something of all human groups in them.

roo08
Guest
roo08

Same here. This is deeply fascinating, I can’t wait to study more about them and the other 13 groups we all descended from. Much thanks for this post BGLH, really appreciate the sharing of knowledge and history on this site.

eljjai
Guest
eljjai

they are not so much actively hurt nowadays as they are left out of modern society, No one quite knows what to do with them, should they be allowed to keep their old way of life, or be made to join us in this modern way.
The biggst threat to their way of life in Botswana at least, is the diamond mining industry that wants to open huge mines in the land where they have lived and hunted for centuries. One mine is already up and running and several first people were displaced. It’s a sad frustrating case.

lis
Guest
lis

Thanks@eljjai…for the knowledge.….it is sad and frustrating.

Twinkle
Guest
Twinkle

I enjoyed this article but I was wondering why you all refer to them as the San people instead of Khoisan?? Just curious..

blackgirllonghair
Guest
blackgirllonghair

You are right Twinkle. Khoisan is the correct term. We’re fixing it now.

Jessica Caitlin Michaels
Guest
Jessica Caitlin Michaels

Actually, the Khoi and the San are two different ethnic groups. Khoisan only became used when our tribal lines became blurred, when immigrants came to southern Africa.
(I’m South African)

blackgirllonghair
Guest
blackgirllonghair

Thank you Jessica. I corrected it because I believe some of the images above are of Khoi and some are San.

eljjai
Guest
eljjai

also the word san originally meant thief, and was used by other tribes to describe the Khoi who would “steal” their livestock.

Oratilwe
Guest
Oratilwe

Also the term “bushman” can be seen as derogatory

Isabelle
Guest
Isabelle

Hi Twinkle, are you Motswana? And I know this is weird but is your mum Onkemetse?

Lentwa
Guest
Lentwa

Absolutely beautiful! I am from Botswana and have been priviledged to meet the San people years ago when I went to the central kalahari game reserve. My grandmother though was what we call coloured people in Southern Africa. Her family was considered to be a lower class of coloured people in South Africa during apartheid because they were half European and half San

R LongPig
Guest
R LongPig

I enjoyed this article so much — wonderful, enlightening and ultimately uplifting — there is so much history we have been deprived off and starving for.

jjac401
Guest
jjac401

African genetics are fascinating!

CC
Guest
CC

They all have a very similar appearance. It’s so cute. If you met someone from their tribe you would know it! Their beautiful eyes and cheek bones are a beautiful common characteristic among them.

Laddidi
Guest
Laddidi

Wow!,what Beautiful skin they have got

Sabrina black
Guest
Sabrina black

I’ve been learning about my history more and more each day besides on here. Every time I dig deeper, I find myself attracted. It warms my heart up to know I am special. There’s so much to learn and be proud of.
We have special in us.
I am the originator. I am a legend.

Jennifer Kerkow
Guest
Jennifer Kerkow

To be honest ‘race’ is a man made thing. Its societal and political. Thats why I like to see everyone as human before anything else and every culture has unique wisdom to learn from. Im a romani woman who loves everyone 🙂

maralondon
Guest
maralondon

I wish everyone shared your sentiment Jennifer. However, I don’t believe that every culture has unique wisdom to learn from since there has been so much that has been appropriated, adapted and abused from Africa, we should be looking to Africa if we want real wisdom. I remember many years ago watching a documentary on the Khoisans and marvelling at their close connection with nature. Europeans didn’t really have that and couldn’t and still don’t understand the spiritual relationships non Europeans have with nature. This is why you see them digging up the precious earth for minerals and the like,… Read more »

lis
Guest
lis

Are you 100% sure about that@Mara…

Maralondon
Guest
Maralondon

Am I 100% sure about what exactly, everything I have mentioned in my post or is there something specific you are asking me about?

Cynthia Allen McLaglen
Guest
Cynthia Allen McLaglen

I absolutely agree with you. People from other cultures are ignorant of how to live in the desert and kill their own food and search for their own drink. Most cultures have become spoilt. The Khoisan, !San, and the Edzabi are amongst the first proper human beings on earth. We have found some more who are older in America. All human being are related to one another and have evolved to look different in different climate and because the Africans are the most diverse people in the world, you can get every type right there. We all evolve from them… Read more »

DeepCherrish
Guest
DeepCherrish

Race is a white mans concept. We are different, but how this is defined currently rather than by homeland alone, family/tribe is a concept created by a european the 3/7 races of men…look it up. All each of us can do to change things is to be a better person, but we need to know history and see it as clearly as possible to move forward.

Steve Biko
Guest
Steve Biko

That way of thinking only works when the socio‐economic power is equally distributed amongst all ethnic groups/ethnicities. If you have more (or less), you become “othered”, hence why Romani people like yourself is referred to as “Gypsy” almost everywhere in Europe, and not only that, you’re not exactly being treated with any respect either, unfortunately.

Freshnu
Guest
Freshnu

Oh my goodness! I am just intrigued by their beauty and they seem like grounded people. Love them.

BillipPhailey
Guest
BillipPhailey

I can see a lot of “people” in them.

Staci Elle
Guest

That’s why a lot of black people can look “Asian” and not be mixed. I came across this tribe years ago online and was blown away. Black people literally can make any time of look, that’s amazing.

AfroQueen
Guest
AfroQueen

These people are amazing ! I can’t stop looking at the pics…

curly 3C long hair
Guest
curly 3C long hair

beautiful black people it’s true we can create other colors without being mixed with american blood wonderful to know.

Maralondon
Guest
Maralondon

We create different complexions not colours and what is American blood?

Maralondon
Guest
Maralondon

We come in many shades not colours and what is American Blood?

Naija Girl
Guest
Naija Girl

You are right, i also find it hilarious when people say things like you dont look African or you dont look so and so, I mean we Africans are the blueprint of the human race, how on earth do you think we wont have all the skin tones and features available? We are not limited to just a particular set. One time I ordered stuff over the phone and when i went to pick it up, the lady was so surprised at my skin tone, i’m a bit fairer than beyonce and she just couldn’t believe i’m a Nigerian Igbo… Read more »

Medusa
Guest
Medusa

Very cool. Thank you for the article.

Elle P.
Guest
Elle P.

These photos are amazing! They really capture their personalities

Kerz
Guest
Kerz

Lovely article. Thanks for the incite and the pictures are amazing.

AmandaBraxton
Guest
AmandaBraxton

colours/shades is a matter of semantics but if you really want to get color technical about it; colours is closer than shade as a shades are derivitive of a single color by adding white or black. This is not the case as the varying skin tones of black people can range from warm reds and yellows to cool the cooler tonality of the darkest complexions. The correct term would be Hue‐if you are trying to be hyper correct in your vocab otherwise we all know what we mean when we say “colour” “shade” “complexion” also I think what curly meant… Read more »

Cheryl David-Bailey
Guest
Cheryl David-Bailey

Is Nelson Mandela one these people he looks very much like tthem .

rootbeer08530yahoocom
Guest
rootbeer08530yahoocom

The San are one of 14 known extant “ancestral population clusters” from which all known modern humans descend. He might be closely related but we all come from them.

Metlha Brown
Guest
Metlha Brown

You are right. Most people from South of Africa :Botswana, Namibian and South Africa are mixed. So I am positive that a lot of us have over the years of marrying San women (Only women were married into other tribes) ended up inheriting the San looks. A man once asked me which South African country do I come from. I ASKED him how did he know that I was from there, and he said to me ‘it’s the Bushman blood in you..you people are unique ‘. I am from Botswana and never though that I was that different , least… Read more »

Itumeleng
Guest
Itumeleng

Its true that we Tswana people have significant San blood, at least I can tell from my skin tone, features as well as hair texture. In London I can easily spot Southern Africans from other Africans. I have also been asked the same by a Danish couple who lived in Southern Africa which of the Southern countries I come from. Even expats can tell the difference. Our look is very distinct. I find the San a very beautiful people indeed and feel privileged to come from such an ancient tribe :))

Lone Stranger
Guest
Lone Stranger

I am a white South African and I must be honest. The Khoi San/Bush Men people always intrigued me a lot (since I watched “The Gods must be crazy) . Brilliant culture and a interesting people. They are quite intelligent as well. This YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxkvY2FZRQg, shows exactly how they find water in the desert.

Metlha Brown
Guest
Metlha Brown

Why would you think that they were not intelligent?

Bubbles [PPG SQUAD]
Guest
Bubbles [PPG SQUAD]

I think he’s saying it as intelligent in a modern point of view. I’m black and I literally get what he’s saying.

Metlha Brown
Guest
Metlha Brown

Dumela mma

Stephine Griffith
Guest
Stephine Griffith

So beautiful and no they are not mixed, pure blood africans with slanted eyes and high cheekbones with varying skin tones

Sha Le
Guest
Sha Le

Unfortunately they are now mixed up due to European settlers. Slanted eyes did originate in Africa, but now their skin is progressively lighter.

Stephine Griffith
Guest
Stephine Griffith

No they are not. The cape coloureds are product of where white people wanted to breed out the kalahari people but it didnt work, Cape coloured are mixed not Khosian,Zulu or xhosa.Stop it

Amphioxys
Guest
Amphioxys

The Khoisan peoples were light‐brown skinned to begin with. They once inhabited the savannah in all of Southern Africa, but were largely replaced or assimilated by darker‐skinned Bantu peoples spreading from the north, and later by Northern Europeans from the Cape. There are still isolated tribes surviving in desert environments of the Kalahari.

Depths Of My Soul!
Guest
Depths Of My Soul!

Than how did they get Neanderthal genes?

Gary Robert Del Carlo
Guest
Gary Robert Del Carlo

Some of you may have already seen these, but there’s a great video on this from PBS called, “Journey of Man” “The Story of the Human Species”. Hosted by Dr. SPencer Wells. There’s also a book called, “The Journey of Man”, “A Genetic Odyssey” by Spencer Wells.

Ruby Lynn Harrington
Guest
Ruby Lynn Harrington

Dear Dumb People on this thread: Dr. Spencer Wells did a PBS documentary on this, highlighting how the Khoisan people are where all humans descended from. You need to watch it.

shbkyn45
Guest
shbkyn45

Spencer Wells, refer to the Khoisan people, as his family.
The journal of Man, I love the story, it give you chills to see these people my people, as he presented them.

wendela
Guest
wendela

hello! Is it possible to borrow this picture to the Swedish Khoisan Tea account on Instagram?

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