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I Dream Africa

I Dream Africa

San Villages


Who are the San?

The term "Bushmen" is best known referring to the nomadic hunter-gatherer people of the Kalahari Desert of Africa.
They are also called "Basarwa"(in Botswana) and "San" (in Namibia and South Africa). The word "San" means "foragers" in the Khoekhoe-language and, like "Bushmen", also carries negative connotations of backwardness, low status or even banditry. That is why some people argue, that the term "San" is no better than "Bushmen". Among them are people who call themselves "Bushmen" in order to demonstrate that they are proud of their origin and the knowledge they have of living of the bushveld.

Since these people lived for a big part of history in relative isolation in parts of Africa, especially in the Kalahari, they still have some specific cultural and linguistic characteristics.

What language do they talk?

To hear the very interesting and unique "click" languages spoken by the Bushmen is a wonderful experience in itself. Different varieties of these click languages are spoken by the Bushmen.

Five types of click sounds are known to exist in the Bushmen languages, although not all of them will be used in any single variety. A certain sucking action of the tongue is responsible for the click sounds, but a different position of the tongue and the way in which air is released result in different sounds. These sounds are written as "/" (dental), "≠" (palatal), "!" (alveolar or retroflex), "//" (lateral) and "(circle with dot)"(bilabial).

Different click languages are spoken by different groups of Bushmen. The group living in a small village just north of Uitspan Hunting Ranch, speak two varieties (West !Xoon and 'N/ohan) of the Taa-language, which is part of the Tuu language family or of the Southern branch of South African Khoisan. "Taa" in their language means 'person' or 'human being'.

Taa is the only language of all Southern Khoisan languages which is still being spoken by a significant amount of San people. Most of them live in Botswana. The largest group of Taa-speakers in Namibia is to be found in a Kalahari village just north of Uitspan Ranch.

Due to the small number of speakers the language is classified as an "endangered" language. A very interesting project is currently being undertaken to document the Taa-language, history and culture. It is part of the Volkswagen Foundation sponsored globally working programme called "Documentation of Endangered Languages" (DoBes).

Where can these Bushmen be found?

This small Bushmen village can be found ± 50km north of Uitspan Hunting Ranch. It is located on communal land, which is called the "Korridor"-zone between the former Aminuis Native Reserve and the Botswana border. The Aminuis Native Reserve was established in 1923 for Herero cattle herders and is, since Namibian Independence, also communal land. The Korridor was originally meant to serve as a buffer zone against the spreading of cattle diseases from Botswana into the reserve.

The Korridor is divided into 22 farms made up by two parallel columns next to the border with Botswana. Each farm has several boreholes and one of the Nr.17-boreholes was put under San authority. This little village is called "San Plaas" ("plaas" the Afrikaans word for "farm").

In 1997 a Community Campsite was built here. And this is where any visitors are taken that are interested in the culture, living circumstances and language of the Bushmen of the Kalahari.

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