Dark Origins – African myths and legends: The San (previously Bushmen) Part 1Posted: January 26, 2022
The San peoples, previously know as Bushmen, are members of the various Khoe, Tuu, or Kx’a-speaking indigenous hunter-gather cultures which are also the first cultures of southern Africa. The territories of the San peoples include Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and South Africa.
The hunter-gatherer San peoples are one of the oldest cultures on Earth and are believed to be descended from the first inhabitants of what is now Botswana and South Africa. The San were traditionally semi-nomadic as they moved seasonally within certain defined areas based on the availability of water, game, and edible plants. The areas occupied by the San were semi-desert or desert areas, including the Kalahari Desert.
During the colonial period, much of the land occupied by the San peoples was conquered. The pattern of lost land and reduced access by the San to natural resources has continued and is a primary contributor to the current displaced position of the San and the destruction of their ancient traditional lifestyles.
Rock art – human hand
The San are well known for their rock art which is found in caves and rocky overhangs where the San lived. These rock paintings comprise mainly of animals and human figures. On a recent trip to Nieu Bethesda in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, I saw a reddish handprint of a San Shaman. It is believed that the San didn’t view rock as a solid surface and these handprints indicate so-called energy points, where the San believed a person could travel through a cave wall’s illusory solidity.
IXam, formerly spoken by the IXam-ka peoples of South Africa, is considered an extinct language. Fortunately, some of the IXam stories were recorded by linguists Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd in Cape Town in the 19th Century.
This is the IXam story of the sun’s origins:
“The sun was an old man of the Early Race who lived in a hut on earth. The light of the sun shone out of his armpit and only lit up the space around his house. The earth was dark and cold and the mothers couldn’t dry the ant or termite larvae that they collected to eat. Everybody was hungry and cold because there was no warmth from the sun who refused to share his light.
The mothers gathered the children together and told them to pick up the old man and throw him into the sky. They did this and now he sheds light over all the earth.”
I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the San peoples and IXam story. Next month, I’ll be sharing more about the culture and traditions of the San and another traditional story.
About Roberta Eaton Cheadle
Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.
Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.
Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.
Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.
Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.
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