The Bushmen are people of South Africa and neighboring Botswana and Namibia, who live in the Kalahari Desert, are part of the Khoisan group and are related to the Khoikhoi. They have a remarkably complex language characterized by the use of click sounds. While they have no collective name for themselves in any of their languages, they identify themselves as a larger group with such names as Ju/’hoansi and !Kung (the punctuation characters representing different clicks). They are alos known as Khwe, Basarwa or San.
Traditionally, the Bushmen have had a hunter-gatherer culture, living in temporary wooden and rock shelters and caves of the Kalahari in southwest Africa. About half of modern Bushmen continue to live this way. Bushmen have a rich folklore, are skilled in drawing, and are famous for their beautiful cave paintings.
Archaeological evidence suggests that they have lived in southern Africa (and probably other areas of Africa) at least 22,000 years. Although this early advanced civilization has survived despite technological and cultural developments in the regions in which they live, late twentieth century changes in land use finally threatened the survival of their traditional lifestyle.
Much has been learned about the ancient ways from the current Bushmen. They have been nomadic hunters and gatherers of wild food in traditional social units of small hunting bands. Sometimes Bushmen may form larger organizations for special occasions, but these groups are loose and temporary. They usually possess only what they can carry. The only concession most Bushmen have made to the modern era is wearing clothes.
Traditional Bushmen practice shamanism, conjuring animals with sacred songs, and performing almost magical healing.
The Bushmen of the Kalahari were first brought to the western world's attention in the 1950s by South African author Laurens van der Post, with his famous book The Lost World of the Kalahari, which was also made into a BBC television series.
The 1980 comedy movie The Gods Must Be Crazy portrayed a Kalahari Bushman tribe's first encounter with an artifact from the outside world (a Coca-Cola bottle).
The anthropologist and filmmaker, John Marshall, documented the lives of Bushmen in the Nyae Nyae region of Namibia over more than a 50-year period. His early film The Hunters, released in 1957, showed a giraffe hunt during the 1950s. N!Ai: The Story of a !Kung Woman (1980) is the account of a woman who grew up while the Bushmen were living as autonomous hunter-gatherers and was later forced into a dependent life in the government created community at Tsumkwe. A Kalahari Family (2002) is a five-part, six-hour series documenting 50 years in the lives of the Ju/’hoansi of Southern Africa, from 1951 to 2000. [NewWorld]