Identity of the ǂKhomani San as Authentic Bushman in the 21st Century: An Ethnographic Study


The small indigenous community of the ǂKhomani San Bushmen in the Southern Kalahari Desert of South Africa are grappling to maintain their identity in the 21st century. Being authentic Bushman comes with a huge number of challenges for this indigenous community in retaining their cultural links to the land and their San heritage. Their authenticity links closely to being a direct decedent of Regopstaan Kruiper the legendary San leader or relation through blood such as an ancestor. In 2017 the ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape received UNESCO World Heritage status for being authentic. This criterion includes ethnobotanical knowledge embedded in the old languages in the !Ui-Taa languages, spoken by only a few and the transferal of traditions such as hunting, tracking and storytelling. The purpose of this paper is firstly to explore the persistence of cultural practices theoretically. Secondly, this study used ethnographic approaches such as interviews, photography and video within the community to create an understanding and awareness of such cultural practices and to document this in a book. The ǂKhomani San regained cultural and symbolic rights to their land in 1999 which includes use of resources and traditional hunting rights in large parts of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park. Through exploring their identity of being authentic, the San are drawing on tourism for meaningful development of their cultural practices to engage the youth to retaining their cultural links.

Author Information
Celeste McKenzie, The Independent Institute of Education, South Africa

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2021
Stream: Indigeneous Studies – world wide

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon