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Essay: The San People: Southern Africa's First Indigenous Inhabitants

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  • Published: 1 February 2018*
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  • Words: 950 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 4 (approx)

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in1994, south Africa adopted its national coat of arm. Many aspects of south Africa’s heritage are interpreted in the national coat of arms. One of these aspects are the san people, who are southern Africa’s first indigenous people.

The san The San are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa, where they have lived for at least     20 000 years.( www.geni.com/ www.krugerpark.co.za  )The word San means a diverse group of hunters and gathers living in Southern Africa who share historical connections.

San inhabitants did not have chief or person who controlled the group so decisions within the group were made together in long discussions. They fixed arguments within the group through long discussions. Leadership among the group is kept for those who lived the longest and have reached a respectable age and have built themselves a goof name within the group.

San shared most this such as meat and tobacco. The group owned the land they lived on, and rights to the land are inherited through Kinship bonds provided the basic framework for political models. To remain part of the group meant that the san member had to stay on the same land as the rest of the group (membership is determined by residency).

san people were nomadic, which means that they never stay in one place for long before the move to their destination. They moved in small clans, each with its clearly defined territory. The term hunters and gathers is used to explain the san. The woman were known as gathers because they would go into the fields and gather wild melons such as tsamma ‘ a source of food and water, roots and edible berries. The men were known as hunters and would hunt with spears and bow and arrow, the arrows were tipped with poison made with insect grubs which affects the victim’s nervous system.

San people never wasted anything, they would use everything proved to them and when they killed and animal they would use the whole body. They would eat the meat, use the skin for clothes, bones for tools and structures. Eggs of an Ostridge would be eaten and the shell would be used to store water.

The san believed in a lot of things and on of their strong beliefs were their spiritual animals, the animal that was an eland. The animal appeared in 4 rituals such as a boys first kill, when a girl reaches puberty, marriage and when they preform trace dances. The sand belief system was that there was one all mighty powerful god and at the same time there was less powerful gods along with their wives and children.

San people drew many rock paintings and their work is seen as holding deep and religious meaning. Many anthropologists looked at the art by the san and the pieces that they couldn’t make out were crude art or seen as art done by san people who drew when they were under the influence, but further studies have pieced together the art work as holding great meaning. They used bright colours when painting such as red, orange, brown, white, black and yellow. They never used colours such as blue and green. They used things from nature to create these colours.

San people not only gathers plant but when they used them for eating and medicinal purposes they also categorised thousands of the pants and their uses. Their uses were categorised from nutritional to medical, mystical to recreational and lethal. The san were also known for their capability to hunt animals for days by looking at their tracks. They would literally hunt on any terrain and surface.

The present coat of arms was chosen because it is a clear representation of our national heritage. The two san figures portrayed on our coat of arms are images on the Linton stone, this art is displayed in the cape town museum. The san are the oldest known inhabitants of our land and most probably of the earth. They are shown on the coat of arms greeting on another which is a symbol of unity. This also represents the beginning of the individual’s transformation into the greater sense of belonging to the nation and by extension, collective humanity.

The motto on our coat of arms is : !ke e: /xarra //ke, its written in Khoisan language of the Xam people. This motto means ‘diverse people unite.’

The ears of wheat, this is a symbol of fertility, it also symbolises the idea of germination, growth and the development of and potential.

Elephant tusks, elephants are the symbol of wisdom, strength, moderation and eternity.

The shied means spiritual defence and it contains the primary symbol of our nation.

The spear and knobkierie, are the dual symbols of defence and authority. They also represent the powerful legs of the secretary bird. The spear and knobkierie are lying down which means peace.

The protea is and symbol of the beauty of our land. The most popular colours of Africa have been assigned to the protea- green, gold, red and black.

The secretary bird is characterised in flight, the natural consequence of growth and speed. The bird also is a symbol of protection of the people and shows strength with powerful legs shown as spears and knobkieries.

The rising run is and emblem of brightness, splendour and the supreme principle of the nature of energy. It is a symbol of rebirth, the active facilities of reflection, knowledge, good judgment and willpower.

The government included all these aspects to show how we are all one and by including everything he commemorated everything that makes up our heritage and how we shouldn’t forget our past


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