Elroy Christenson



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Kagga Kamma, South Africa

"Bushman artist, Petrus Kruiper of Kagga Kamma, S.A." 2001 photo Elroy Christenson

Khoisan people have been variously called Bushmen and Hottentots. Khoisan is newly coined word as a combination of "Khoekhoen" and "San" people who were the indigenous people of South Africa dating back 30,000 years or more. Some would argue that they were here as far back as 120,000 years. The Bushmen, Khoekhoen and San people were nearly eliminated from South Africa by contact with Europeans in the 1600's who saw them as inferiors that deserved to be conquered. Europeans brought in disease and alchohol which decimated the population. The few that remained were later hunted for sport. They were driven into the desert where they scattered and could survive in environments hostile to Europeans. Today's Khoisan people normally dress as westerners but do continue some of the traditions of rock painting, ostrich shell neckless making and living simply. The rock paintings of the San people are on rock faces scattered through the Kagga Kamma reserve. In Numibia some of these paintings have been dated back as early as 27,000 bce making these some of oldest rock paintings in the world. Certainly then, these people are carrying on one with the longest continuous traditional image making forms of art known today by still painting these rocks with twigs and pigment.

The Khoisan people were invited to stay on the Kagga Kamma reserve. Petrus Kruiper, the artist pictured above lives nearby in housing built for him and his family. They are not hired by the preserve but are urged to present their crafts for sale in their traditional costumes to visiting groups. They provide this way a living example of what it may have been like in earlier times for these people. They normally are dressed in western clothes. This makes them hard to distinguish from other South African natives at the same time continuing their artistic tradition.

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updated by Elroy Christenson 19/01/12