Aug 2020 1st edition

Celebrating the country’s indigenous people

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

South Africa’s first people have fascinating stories to tell about the region’s history.

The history of the Khoisan people stretches to all corners of Southern African and is marked by art, wars and influence of different cultures.

A strong spiritual belief and respecting other people and nature defines the Khoi and San people, says the leader of the Gorinhaiqua Cultural Council, Chief !Garu Zenzile Khoisan.

!Garu says: “The Khoi and San people believe in the seven !nxau. The !nxau are the seven stages of life, from birth till death, that the Khoi and San people go through.”

The first !nxau is a ceremony to mark the birth of a child. This is followed by the second !nxau, which recognises that a child has reached puberty. At this stage, the child is taught to have absolute respect for the almighty and why the eland is central to the culture of the Khoi and San people.

“The other !nxau stages teach people to accept their identity. This is followed by being given council responsibility, meaning that you lead by example in your community. When a member of the Khoi and San community dies, a final !nxau is held. “This final !nxau is to accompany the dead to the evermore,” !Graru says.

The Khoi and San groups have also helped influence and shape other tribes in South Africa, according to !Garu. An example of this is the clicks in isiXhosa, which were influenced by the amaXhosa living side by side with the Khoi and San nations.

The Khoi and San people coexisted with other tribes as well and this is evidenced through rock paintings that have been carbon dated. According to !Garu, the carbon dating tell us that the Khoi and San nations were living in parts of the country at the same time as other tribes.


9 August is International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.

In 2007, the Khoi and San people were recognised to be the indigenous people of South Africa by the United Nations.

The motto on the South African Coat of Arms – ! ke e: /xarra //ke – is written in a Khoisan language and means ‘diverse people unite’.


Share this page