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Agricultural and Hunting of 19th Century Khoikhoi People


Posted on Aug 2017



The Khoikhoi people are native pastoralists, who have lived in South Africa since the 5th century AD. Prior to the colonization the region, Bayard (1882) asserts that they had been practicing widespread pastoral agriculture within the Cape region. They had large herds of cattle that are referred to as Nguni. They were labeled as “Hottentots” by the Dutch settlers. Archeological evidence illustrates that the Hottentots people entered into South Africa coming from Botswana through different routes, journeying west, avoiding the Kalahari towards the West Coast, and then downwards towards the Cape. This paper will look into the life of the Hottentots people during the 19th century, placing emphasis on agricultural activities, as well as hunting and gathering.

Chapman describes Natal as an area that portrayed a lot of development, most of the people being English, making the region being to be a significant area under the British crown, with the rich fertile soils being one of the important factors (p.3). Among the crops that would be planted in these extraordinary agricultural lands waiting for export include sugar, coffee, indigo, cotton, tea, ginger, and many other tropical productions.

Taylor, Bayard, who was a traveler, he describes the Hottentots as being the primitive inhabitants of the Cape country, and who were scattered all over the colony. According to him, the name “Hottentot” that was given to them by the early settlers. The traveler describes the pure-blooded Hottentot as being weak, dwarfish creature that is rarely five feet high, with a spine so curved towards the base that it gives him a half-stooping attitude. His skull is described as thin wool- a feature described as being so comical, that it suggested to the Dutch settlers the nickname ofpeppe-heads” (14). A superior tribe referred to as the Griqua was produced from a mixture of the Hottentots with the early Dutch settlers. Firstly, they formed a nomadic race but they took the possession of the territory along the Orange River. According to the traveler, it is the missionaries who had accompanied them in their wanderings who had taught them to add agriculture to cattle-raising, to establish themselves in villages, as well as organize a primitive system of government.

The precise translation of Khoikhoi is “People.” They were conventionally in colloquial language referred to as Hottentots by the white colonialists, a name that is presently offensive. According to Academe & Gottlieb (2006), the word “Hottentots means “stutterer” or better still “stammered” within the northern dialect of the Dutch people. In addition, some Dutch people utilize the word to imply a clicking sound that is dominant within the Hottentots languages. In addition, it may as well refer to an ill-famed vertebrate that is very poisonous and is found in the African continent. The invasion of the Hottentots lands by the Europeans compelled the Hottentots people to seek land in areas that were arid, hence affecting their agriculture as well as hunting activities that were predominant in the fertile valley (Bayard, 1882).

Hunting and herding: Evidence from archaeological excavations illustrate that the major source of day to day nourishment for the Hottentots people was meat that was gathered from activities such as hunting as well as herding (Delphic, 2007, p.112). South African Library, Smith, & Pfeiffer (2003) asserts that bones belonging to sheep, cattle, as well as seals shows that there was a coexistence between the two distinct disciplines, that is, heralding as well as hunting. According to Academe & Gottlieb (2006), when a header in the Hottentots group lost his stock, for instance through theft or drought, he could always go back to hunting, and after he has recovered his losses, he would again become a harder.

The livestock owned by the Khoikhoi people were primarily utilized as a source of milk, as well as they were slaughtered during some ritual occasions. It was traditional for the men who did not have livestock to work as “servantsfor those who had a large wealth of livestock. In return, their compensation for tending to the livestock was that they were offered a free access to milk, and they were usually paid in the form of livestock. Driven by the need to seek for pasture, as well as water for their stock, the Hottentots led a conventional form of pastoral life. They kept a large herd of animals, particularly the fat-tailed sheep and long-horned cattle.

The main animals that the Hottentots people kept included the Nguni sheep as well as cattle which were used in inter-regional trade, where they traded their animals with other goods such as copper and tobacco (Meyer, Benjamin & Huguenot Memorial Museum, 2006). The European merchants, specifically the English and the Dutch would sail to South Africa so as to replenish their stocks of animals from the Khoikhoi people that would then be used for trading with the Indians, as well as other merchants from Asia. Eventually, a disagreement between the Hottentots people as well as the Europeans came into existence in relation to the trading system. Conversely, the Europeans started demanding more cattle than the Hottentots people could supply as some of them were unwilling to sell their herd as they depended on them for basic livelihood. There were as well complaints from the European merchants that the Hottentots people were not selling to their best cattle, but instead, they were selling lame, as well as old cattle (Aardema & Gottlieb, 2006).

According to Chapman (1868), the Khoikhoi people were initially a part of the pastoral culture as well as language group that was found in South Africa. Husbandry of domesticated animals such as sheep, goats as well as cattle that were grazed within the fertile valleys that are in the region were a great source of stable as well as balanced diet that made the Khoikhoi to live in large groups in an area that was previously inhabited by hunters and gatherers group, referred to as the San. Despite the intermarriage between the two groups, the two group remained distinct, with the Khoikhoi people grazing their livestock whereas the San being hunters and gatherers.

The arrival of the Europeans had a tremendous influence on the lives of the Khoikhoi people. The Khoikhoi at first encountered the European explorers as well as merchants in around AD 500. The encounters between the two races were often violent. However, the population of the Khoikhoi significantly reduced when the Europeans exposed them to smallpox (Meyer, Benjamin & Huguenot Memorial Museum, 2006).

The conventional lifestyle of the Khoikhoi people was negatively affected following their expulsion from their traditional farming lands by the European. The damaged social organization of the Khoi people by colonial expansion, as well as land seizure, made them settle on farms. The traditional Khoikhoi was hunters as well as gatherers community. They resided in simple as well as disposable huts that were made of long sticks and grass. According to Boozier (2007), the Khoikhoi people are amongst the remarkably successful hunters and gatherers in terms of survival in Africa.

The Khoikhoi people often painted their walls of the caves that they lived in by paintings that imply animals, for instance, the Eland, which is a large species of the antelope family. These caves existed in the Drakensberg Mountains. Archeologists, as well as historians, tend to believe that the early painting of caves by the Khoikhoi people is a representation of the significance that they placed on animals as well as hunting in the early South Africa. It is good to note how representative the depictions of animals are, whereas the representation of human hunters. Dancing paintings within the caves are a common representation of an activity that prepares the hunters to go hunting activities (Delphic, 2007, p.187).

Agriculture (Growing Crops): The Khoikhoi people gauged their wealth in accordance to the livestock they had- cattle, goats, as well as sheep (Vilene, 2006). As a result, the people who utilized land for the purpose of farming so as to earn a living were those who did not have livestock. These groups of persons were regarded as having a low socio-economic status as compared to the Khoikhoi people who kept livestock. The farmers were usually referred to as “Bushmen” and they were least respected within the Khoikhoi society. The low respect is because they were not perceived as being successful. Vilene asserts, “a big proportion of the population relies on agriculture as the basic source of livelihood. In addition, they largely practice livestock breeding, particularly the sheep as well as the cattle.” Breeding as well as cattle counting was a significant source of a balanced diet in the Khoikhoi society (Academe & Gottlieb, 2006, p.89).

The European colonization drove away the Khoikhoi people towards the north as well as west, where the land was not more productive as in the valleys, therefore, compelling most of them to become laborers. The nomadic lifestyles that the Khoikhoi people had adapted appeared to be a moreestablished existence” as their initial tribal chiefs had by then become the leaders of the villages (Newton-King et al., 2001, p.78). Even though a small number of the Khoikhoi people still lead a nomadic form of lifestyle or the keeping of livestock, has turned out to be much more dominating as compared to activities such as hunting. Chiefs were responsible for managing the nomadic tribes that were occupying their territory. In the 19th century, cattle still remained to be a major source of food as well as it is the primary source of trading activities. Within the Khoikhoi people, the difference that led between wealth, as well as prestige in the tribe, was attributed to the ownership of cattle.

The Khoikhoi people, along with the San were the first persons to inhabit the land that in contemporary day is referred to as South Africa. According to Newton-King et al. (2001), scientific evidence illustrates that the Hottentots people had inhabited this land for approximately 5,000 years. They largely settled within the high-veldt as well as the Western semi-arid areas. Whereas the Hottentots was pastoralists, the San people practiced hunting as well as gathering. In addition, some Dutch people utilize the word to imply a clicking sound that is dominant within the Hottentots languages. In addition, it may as well refer to an ill-famed vertebrate that is very poisonous and is found in the African continent. The Hottentots people are characterized by their light skin, in comparison to other African people who inhabited the area later. The Hottentots possessed a special language dialect that comprised of different clicking sounds. This is among the reason as to why the Europeans referred the Khoikhoi people as Hottentots, a name that

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