Of all the African tribes presently in South Africa, the only truly original indigenous people of the region are the San (Bushman) who were the hunter gatherers and the Nama who lived a semi nomadic pastoral life. Both these groups were part of the Khoikhoi people who, unfortunately, have practically disappeared except for the Nama living in Namaqualand and the very small amount of San people living mainly in Namibia as well as on the South African side of the border with Namibia. All these African tribes are part of the Khoisan Group.
These two groups lived in Southern Africa in isolation for Millennia until groups of people started migrating from the north of Africa and with each wave of groups the Nama and San people moved further south with the Nama residing mainly in the Cape Province.
Pure Nama people are now very rare as they have been practically eliminated due to intermarriage with other tribes as well as by outbreaks of smallpox during the 18th century. The language spoken by the San and the Nama are Khoisan languages with most of the consonants being click sounds.
Today the Nama people can be found mainly in the region of the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape a Unesco World Heritage Site in North Western South Africa where they practice their semi-nomadic cultural lifestyle. They are recognizable by their yellowish skin tones and a slightly Mongolian appearance with high cheekbones.
The San people today, consist of just a few remnants of these truly indigenous inhabitants of South Africa and their history remains in their paintings and engravings encountered over large portions of South Africa. San or Bushman paintings can be found from the Cape to the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe as well as in Namibia. Their paintings can be found on the walls of caves as well as on rock shelters and ledges. The subjects of these paintings are mainly wild animals, hunting scenes as well as human figures and domestic animals.
The San are characterised by their very small stature, seldom over 5 ft and have a wrinkled appearance. They also have extremely keen eyesight. The San are skilled trackers and have an extraordinary sense of music and art.
A great example of the San tribe can be seen in the well known Jamie Uys film “The Gods must be crazy”.
related articles African Tribes
- South African Culture – Tribes of South Africa - Shangaan Tribe
- South African Tribes – Chiefs of the Zulu Nation - Dingaan
- Tribes of South Africa – Zulu Chiefs - Shaka
- Touring South Africa – South African Cultural Sites – Lesedi Cultural Village
- South African Tribes -South Africa Culture – Swazi Tribe
- Culture of South Africa - South African tribes - Ndebele tribe
- South Africa Tribes - South African Culture - Lemba Tribe
- Tribes of Africa - South African Culture - Sotho Tribe
- Tribes of South Africa - South African Culture - Venda Tribe
- African Tribes - South African Tribes -South Africa Culture