San

The San, also known as Bushmen, are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa and one of the world’s oldest cultures. The semi-nomadic hunter gatherers once lived in large parts of Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, but were driven into the arid Kalahari by pastoral tribes looking for grazing. San rock art can be found all over Southern Africa and some paintings are estimated to be more than 20 000 years old. Well known rock art can be found in the Brandberg area and in Twyfelfontein, one of the world’s richest rock art sites.

The San are known for their survival and tracking skills. They have perfectly adapted to the arid environment of the Kalahari. Storytelling and dance is a big part of San culture. Long dancing ceremonies will take the dancers into a trancelike state. The rock art is a depiction of this spiritual world. There are 13 San languages. However, all of them have the characteristic clicks that are so impossible to pronounce for Westerners.

Today most of the San have given up their traditional lifestyle and work on farms or live in remote areas such as Otjozondjupa or Omusati. Namibia’s San population numbers about 35 000. To learn about the fascinating that outlives many ancient empires visit the Living Museum of the Ju/’Hoansi San at Grashoek or the Living Hunter’s Museum near Tsumkwe.