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Perceptions of Bushmen Culture

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In the 1800s Europeans discovered Saartjie Baartman, a South African Bushman woman. They called her the Hottentot Venus and exploited her mainly because of her physical and cultural differences. Hottentot, Khoisan, San and Bushmen are all common names for the group of indigenous people of which she belonged. These people have been largely viewed by Western society as “savages who were part human, part animal” and considered to be “the lowest rung in the ladder of human development.” This unilateral yet widespread notoriety has existed since the 1800s and many of the banal conceptions of the Bushmen have remained unchanged through the course of modern history. This paper will be general overview of Bushmen culture. It will describe some of its complexities, as well as further note the way early Europeans and anthropologist perceived these South African peoples. This paper will not provide an in-depth historical account or all encompassing research of the culture but is a proposal that aims to present the Bushmen culture as one that has much to appreciated.

Bushmen people have a unique language that is characterized by the use of clicks in their speech. This characteristic is exclusive of Bushmen peoples and some other southern Bantu languages. These clicks can be described as “mouthed” because the sounds are produced by variations of mouth movements that let air pass into the mouth. To produce such clicks requires the use of the lips, alveolar ridge (the ridge behind the teeth of the upper jaw), tongue, teeth, cheek and palate. Because this language is different from any other in the world, linguists have made many attempts at translating these sounds into written language, often using symbols to express them. The fact that t...

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...avid Chidester et al., African Traditional Religion in South Africa: An Annotated Bibliography (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1997), 69.

David Lewis-Williams & Sam Challis, Deciphering Ancient Minds: The Mystery of San Rock Art, 35.

David Chidester et al., African Traditional Religion in South Africa: An Annotated Bibliography, 68.

David Lewis-Williams & Sam Challis, Deciphering Ancient Minds: The Mystery of San Rock Art, 193.

David Chidester et al., African Traditional Religion in South Africa: An Annotated Bibliography, 69.

David Chidester et al., African Traditional Religion in South Africa: An Annotated Bibliography, 70.

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Old Way (New York: Sarah Crichton Books, 2006), 294.

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Old Way, 294.

David Lewis-Williams & Sam Challis, Deciphering Ancient Minds: The Mystery of San Rock Art, 36.
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