The Bushmen or San are the oldest known living race. Their ancestors can be traced back over 100 000 years ago, and were to be found throughout Southern and Eastern Africa. When exactly these earliest true humans began to behave like fully modern human beings is not certain, but what we do know is that by 75000 years ago, from the information hunted and gathered through extensive archaeological excavations, features of their lifestyles must have been fairly modern, in terms of certain defining characteristics of culture, including the use of language, ritual, symbolism, weapons and art.
They most definitely would have had a spoken language, and what we do know about modern Bushmen languages is that they are very complex, with up to 150 phonetics, and consist of a wide variety of clicking sounds. The Bushmen are masters at mimicking the behaviour and onomatopoeic sounds of the animals, insects, plants and various elements in their surroundings.
There can be no doubt that their language evolved over thousands of years listening to the sounds of animals galloping, thunder roaring, lightning crashing and stones flaking in the manufacturing of tools, water lapping, fire crackling, bees buzzing and Eland's knees clicking.The Bushmen ancestors from 75000 years ago also hunted with very sophisticated spears. Their weapons consisted of stone spearheads which were bi-facially flaked, serrated and leaf-shaped, tapering off to a point on both ends. These were then mounted on long wooden shafts and could effectively be used for bringing down large game animals, such as the now extinct giant buffalo, which weighed in excess of a ton. For butchering they made use of very sharp stone blades, a large parallel-sided cutting tool, the equivalent of a modern day knife.
In addition, within the ancient living sites occupied by these people, archaeologists have found thousands of pieces of red ochre, an iron oxide pigment still used to this day by cultures throughout the world as a cosmetic, for ritualistic, ceremonial, and also for artistic purposes. The pieces found in these caves and rock-overhangs come in a variety of different shades, from dull red to bright red, from reddish-brown right through to yellow. Of the pieces found, some of them show clear signs of being worked, such as being scraped or smoothed on the sides, possibly the result of being ground for powder or used as an ochre pencil directly on the rock surface.
Here we can see how these early humans were already preparing these pigments for ritualistic and artistic purposes. Any ochre sketching or drawings done on the rocks at this early stage of human development would certainly not have survived to this present day, as it is unlikely that they would have mixed binding agents such as fat or blood with their ochre pigments, as was done with nearly all known Bushmen art, resulting in the paintings lasting for hundreds or even thousands of years.
These early people would most likely have drawn directly on the rock surface, the result being that we now only have indirect evidence of art in the form of utilized pieces of ochre. So over thousands of years, the art form developed to include the use of multiple ingredients in the paint. But within the site of Blombos Cave in the Eastern Cape, archaeologists have discovered two pieces of ochre with engravings on them. These engravings consist of geometrical crosshatch designs and both have been dated to approximately 75000 years ago, making them the oldest known art on Earth.
This engraved form of art, plus the fact that they were collecting and processing ochre for ritualistic purposes, along with the fact that they were hunting with sophisticated spears and butchering the carcasses (of the animals) with very sharp blades, is clearly a sign of modern human behaviour, making the San a very ancient and wise race indeed.
These gentle, wise and humble people have a lot to teach us westerners about the way life used to be, balanced and harmonious, taking into account all those in your community and your environment, plants, animals and spirits alike, to live in peace, to share and to never to take more than you need.
We are so selfishly caught up in own struggles for self-gain that we have forgotten about our selfless place in our greater community. Look to the ancient ones for guidance, they have danced the song of life for longer than we can imagine, their rhythms mimic the cycles of nature in its universal wholeness and completeness.
Written by my friend Gary Trower
The San Bushmen of the Kalahari
The pure feeling one experiences in the Kalahari is very cleansing and after a trip in May 2004 my imagination was fuelled with insight that I am still grasping. Since January 2004 I have been planning this trip and never lost faith that some how it would be fulfilled. Circumstances lead me to discover that Wayne Hammon, a fellow artist, would be up in the Kalahari for a month during April and May working on a ceramic project with the bushmen. This worked out well for myself and Ray, a friend who I had asked to join me. Upon arriving we stayed near Askham with Wayne and I was reunited with the bushmen, some of whom, including BiksKruiper, remembered me from my visit to the KaggaKamma. The bushmen are small in size and are very humble people who only take from the land what they need to survive. I realised the knowledge these people have of the land is very extensive. They are also master spoor trackers. During my stay I experienced so much Beauty, tranquillity, softness and the ancient, spiritual feeling of our mother earth talking to me. It was Awesome! The Bushmen create beautiful art and craft which they sell at very affordable prices. We bought some to support them and I will sell this in my shop in Cape Towns V&A Waterfront.
Pilgrimage Tour with the Bushman 2012
With myself Sean and 2 San Bushmen peoples, Izak& Lydia Kruiper, husband and wife, and 7 people from overseas we journeyed in ceremony from Cape Town to Adams Calendar (not far from Johannesburg), to then meet and sit in circle with Credo Mutwa, then to the Kalahari the land of the first Peoples being the San/Bushmen. From here we travelled south towards Cape Town, completing the circle. This PILGRIMAGE was a sacred journey of spiritual discovery in the land of the roots, South Africa. We were all honoured and in gratitude for the Divine Guidance. Thank you to the Bushmen, Lydia and Izak for sharing the openness of there ancient heart. Thank you to Toppies and SteinieKruiper, San people, for your sacred ceremonial contribution. Thank you to the people from the USA that Chip "William Struckmeyer" brought and to all spiritual essence. Thanks so much FOR our journey being safe and especially for this to be Divinely held, thanks to all who helped.
Empowering the Bushmen
The Bushmen as the roots of humanity and the World Tree want to be remembered. If we water the roots, the tree will be strong. Our collective Tree of Humanity will be Strong, as we are all related.
On my numerous occasions of visiting the San Bushmen in the Kalahari I have taken clothing, blankets and foods, given to me by charity organizations and the church, it is always a pleasure to help where I can. It is unfortunate to see the impoverishment that is present in the community of the Bushmen in Askham on the South African border to Botswana. Askham is a 10 hour drive from Cape Town.
When with the Bushmen I have shared some of my art materials and techniques of painting on rock that I have come to learn as an artist, this includes my paints and the moulded rock surfaces I make.
Before I could even think about how they would progress with this idea, a Bushmen man by the name of Toppies had started and was creating his magic on the surface. I soon found out that the Bushmen are very creative. Where the Bushmen are situated on the southern outskirts of the Kalahari they have small stands on the side of the road where they trade from and these stories on rock that they paint are a very nice addition to their stalls, said IzakKriuper.This idea is the light of a new project of self empowerment for the Bushmen people and through the feeling of worth, this inspiration can be their guide. I feel that painting and being creative is healing for the Bushmen.
The ancient heart of humanity’s family tree comes from the first people of Earth and this starts with the Bushmen people of the Kalahari. From the heart of the Bushmen, who are also the roots of our family tree of life, we all grow. Like a seed that grows to a mature fruit on a tree, we all exist as a process defined through Creation and we all exist as the fruits of consciousness and though this fruit, manifests the seeds for our future. The spiritual understanding of Creation and how to live with Creation in a balanced and harmonious way has for the most part has been lost but it seems that certain people are connecting with the understanding of this light frequency now resonating on Earth. We can learn much about how to live in balance and harmony from the first peoples sacred ways and also what their ancestors have left as a record through their creative art forms.