Kung of the Kalahar Desert


Children could play and entertain themselves while young, but when they grew older, they were required to contribute to the family's upkeep. A young man became eligible for marriage with his first game capture or kill as proof that he could support a wife and family. Although everyone in the family was obliged to contribute, the man had the prime responsibility to feed the family. Only the emphasis on modesty placed restraint on the egalitarian nature of the !Kung tribe, whereby achievements in hunting or other activities could not become a basis for class differentiation or discrimination.

Identity, Culture and Language - The lack of a concrete social stratification enabled the !Kung to adapt their strategy and flexibility (Gadjos 2002). Their culture was also characterized by a respect for elders specifically with the use of titles. The elderly were few and could no longer materially contribute to the upkeep of the community, but they are valued for their historical knowledge, wisdom and a force that preserved the !Kung culture in its original or undiluted form (Gadjos).

The wide differences in languages between the !Kung and other San tribes provided evidence of their existence in their current regions for thousands of years. Historic records account for the arrival of Bantu immigrants in southwest Africa around 1000 AD (Jenkins 2001). Europeans first encountered the Bushmen approximately in the year 1550. As the Bantus and the Europeans came in, the !Kung and other San peoples went into the marginal regions.

These tribes were short and slim and had reddish-yellow skin and kinky hair (Jenkins 2001). They called themselves "zhu twa si" or the harmless ones. In contrast, non-San were called the 'zosi," which meant "animals without hooves" because they were more hostile than killer animals. They descended from the aborigines of Angola until warlike Bantu groups migrated and subdued them around the year 1000 AD.

!Kung tribes were composed of Central !Kung of Botswana and Namibia, the Northern !Kung of Angola and the Au//eisi or Southern !Kung (Jenkins 2001). Most references are made to the Central !Kung and only the Northern !Kung referred to themselves as !Kung. Names and languages later became a source of confusion because of other different and popular names spelled differently.

Their language was the !Kung, which took various forms spoken by different groups. These are "click" languages spoken by the San tribes. They spoke akhoe, kung-ekoka, kung-tsumkwe and Oung. These and the vasekela and maligo constituted the northern and southern African Khoisan languages (Jenkins 2001). Many !Kung also spoke Tswana and still others used English, especially at work in farms and cities. Many people in Namibia spoke Afrikaans while Portuguese was used in Angola. These four were the languages used in educational communities in these countries (Jenkins). #


1. Berberich, Christina. The !Kung San. Minnesota State University, 2003. http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/oldworld/africa/kun_san.html

2. Gajdos, Gina. Survival of the !Kung San People in the Kalahari Desert. Pagewise, Inc., 2002. http://kyky.essortment.com/kungsanpeople_rftw.htm

3. Jenkins, Orville Boyd. Profile of the !Kung Bushmen People of Northern Africa. People Profile, 2001. http://endor.hsutx.edu/~obiwan/profiles/kung.html

4. Shosta, M.…