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San is a collective generic name given to the many tribes of aboriginal people of Southern Africa. With a distinct hunter-gatherer culture which stretches back over 20 000 years, and genetic origins that reach back over one million years, they are believed to be the oldest genetic stock of contemporary humanity.

This group was for a long time time denigratingly referred to as Bushmen in English (or Bosjesmannen in Dutch and Boesmans in Afrikaans), but was replaced by the name San, which came into use in the 1920s and 1930s and really gained prominence in the 1970’s, as a reaction to the perceived pejorative connotations that had become attached to the terms Boesman or Bushman.

However, by 2000 this was being disputed by many, and the term Bushman was being used again, also by some of the people themselves for a while. A composite term, /Xam Bushmen, is also frequently found.

San is sometimes combined with Khoi (referring to the Khoikhoi or Hottentot peoples) in the term Khoisan, which referring to all hunter-gatherers in the Southern African region.

See further the Sources listed below


Critical Arts, Volume 28, Issue 4, August 2014 (Special Issue: San representation, Part II)

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