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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Hottentots and Bushmen

Hottentots and Bushmen.

Besides the two primitive races of South Africa found occupying the territories adjoining the Cape of Good Hope—the Hottentot and Bushmen—were the dark skinned negroids of the Bantu stock, speaking, according to Noble, "a euphonious, polysyllabic, prefix pronominal language; living under hereditary chiefs; pastoral and agricultural in their pursuits; dwellers in villages, and workers in metals. They are now known as the tribal groups, classed as Kafirs, Zulus, Makalakas, Bechuanas, and Damaras, all having ancient traditions of invasions, wars, and forays during their migrations southward and eastward from their long-forgotten home in the north and east."

The Hottentots were a nomadic people, comparatively rich, with abundant flocks and herds. The Bushmen were of a more diminutive stature, of spare, emaciated figure, dwelling in small communities in the recesses of the mountains or in the desert, living entirely by hunting and trapping. With their bow and arrow—this latter steeped in poison—they were the dread of the Hottentot. These two races are said by competent authorities to have been the original inhabitants of a great portion of the African continent, and to have sprung from one source.

The curious drawings of the Bushmen have attracted much attention, and are found at many points between the Cape and the Zambesi. They consist of representations of a mythological character connected with their customs and superstitions, animals and the human figure, coloured in clay and ochre. In Bechuana-land and Mashonaland I have seen examples of these drawings.

The term "Kafir," signifying "infidel," was applied by the Mohammedan Arabs to all the dark races of Africa, and adopted by the first Europeans coming into contact with the tribes on the Eastern border of the Cape Colony.

The Kafirs, to quote Noble ("Official Handbook of the Cape and South Africa"), are physically superior to the Hottentot race. They are generally fine, able-bodied men, reserved and self-possessed in manner, but courteous and polite, and sensible of kindness and consideration. Their form of government was a well-organised although simple one, They had a regular gradation of authority from the head of the family, who was responsible for its conduct, or the head of the kraal or village, page 54 who was responsible for the collective families therein, up to the chief, who, with his councillors, adjudicated in all matters relating to the affairs of individuals or of the tribe. They had a system of law which took cognisance of crimes and offences, enforced civil rights and obligations, provided for the validity of polygamic marriages, and secured succession to property according to well-defined rules. Superstition entered into all the affairs of their life, and formed part of their laws, customs, and religion. They believed in benevolent and evil spirits producing prosperity or adversity in health or sickness, and witchcraft was recognised as one of the evil arts practised with the view of causing death or injury to property. The alleged offender, charged with being umkahti (wizard or witch), was stripped of his possessions, and, after being subjected to various kinds of torture, was frequently put to death. The procedure supplied a convenient method of getting rid of any obnoxious persons, or one whose property was coveted.