Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Ju/'hoan San of Nyae Nyae and Namibian Independence

The Ju/'hoan San of Nyae Nyae and Namibian Independence: Development, Democracy, and Indigenous Voices in Southern Africa

Megan Biesele
Robert K. Hitchcock
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 308
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Ju/'hoan San of Nyae Nyae and Namibian Independence
    Book Description:

    The Ju/'hoan San, or Ju/'hoansi, of Namibia and Botswana are perhaps the most fully described indigenous people in all of anthropology. This is the story of how this group of former hunter-gatherers, speaking an exotic click language, formed a grassroots movement that led them to become a dynamic part of the new nation that grew from the ashes of apartheid South West Africa. While coverage of this group in the writings of Richard Lee, Lorna Marshall, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, and films by John Marshall includes extensive information on their traditional ways of life, this book continues the story as it has unfolded since 1990. Peopled with accounts of and from contemporary Ju>/'hoan people, the book gives newly-literate Ju/'hoansi the chance to address the world with their own voices. In doing so, the images and myths of the Ju/'hoan and other San (previously called "Bushmen") as either noble savages or helpless victims are discredited. This important book demonstrates the responsiveness of current anthropological advocacy to the aspirations of one of the best-known indigenous societies.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-997-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiv-xv)
    Megan Biesele and Robert Hitchcock
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xvi-xviii)
  7. Note on Orthography
    (pp. xix-xxi)
  8. Chronology of the Nyae Nyae Region
    (pp. xxii-xxiv)
  9. Introduction: A Community History
    (pp. 1-30)

    The Ju/’hoan San of Nyae Nyae are a people who today see themselves as an indigenous minority who have basic human rights as citizens of the southern African country of Namibia. This book describes the process by which they have developed that perspective. It examines the wide array of changes that have occurred in Nyae Nyae, looks at the responses that the Ju/’hoansi have had to these challenges, and describes how they have been able to become political actors on the national and international stage, seeking greater recognition of their human rights, their right to development, and their right to...

  10. Chapter One Namibia and the Nyae Nyae Region
    (pp. 31-49)

    Although the Government of the Republic of Namibia (GRN) has made significant strides toward realizing its national development objectives since independence was achieved on 21 March 1990, the country continues to face socio-economic conditions that are markedly inequitable. The wealthiest 5 percent of the population controls 75 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), while over 50 percent of the population controls only 3 percent of the GDP. Poverty levels are high, with 34.9 percent of the population living below US$1 per day, and 68.5 percent living below US$2 per day (World Bank 2008: 335). About 70 percent of the...

  11. Chapter Two Traditional Ju/’hoan Leadership and Governance
    (pp. 50-64)

    Many changes in what Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (2006) refers to as the “Old Way”—how the Ju/’hoansi of Nyae Nyae generally lived their lives in the past—were occurring long before 1986. This chapter summarizes the pressures that caused these changes and shows how they brought about a strongly felt need among the Ju/’hoansi to alter the way in which they governed themselves. Nevertheless, 1986 emerges as a watershed year because of the formation of the Ju/wa (Ju/’hoan) Farmers Union in Nyae Nyae. Thus began an era of change in Nyae Nyae Ju/’hoan community governance that has little precedent in...

  12. Chapter Three The Ju/’hoan People’s Organization and Its Foundation
    (pp. 65-90)

    In discussing changes that occurred in Nyae Nyae after the formation of the Ju/wa Farmers Union, we must remember that, compared to other completely dispossessed San people of southern Africa, the Ju/’hoansi were in a fortunate situation. Unlike thousands of other San, they had managed to hold onto at least a fragment of their former hunting and gathering territory. In this they were aided, ironically, by the apartheid system itself: separate development meant that communal land was set aside for them, to keep them in isolation. Although this system reduced their traditional territory and prevented them from developing normal economic...

  13. Chapter Four Ju/’hoan Empowerment from Dialogue on Wildlife Issues
    (pp. 91-112)

    Before Namibian independence was established in March 1990, the Ju/’hoansi were becoming increasingly critical of top-down decision-making about their resources on the part of the Department of Nature Conservation (DNC). In particular, they were bitter that revenues from wildlife products in Nyae Nyae were being drained into the central government with no advantage to Ju/’hoansi.

    Debates with the DNC also focused on whether conservation planning in the Nyae Nyae area was to benefit people as well as animals. For years, the DNC had ignored any Ju/’hoan attempts to establish meaningful dialogue on this issue. After strenuous communication efforts, however, in...

  14. Chapter Five The Lead-Up to Namibian Independence in Nyae Nyae
    (pp. 113-129)

    The start of the independence process in South West Africa seemed sudden when it was announced in 1988, but it had been building internationally for many years. Many of the leaders of the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) had been in exile all over the world, some for as long as 30 years. Although army recruitment and training took place locally, most of the fighting occurred beyond the borders of South West Africa in Angola. What had preceded the announcement of UN Resolution 435 was a mystery to many within the country, managed from afar as the event was,...

  15. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  16. Chapter Six Independence: The Years of Hope
    (pp. 130-152)

    Thanks to the Ju/wa Bushman Development Foundation (JBDF), the Nyae Nyae Farmers Cooperative (NNFC) was able to establish close contact with officials of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG), who set up a small station in Tsumkwe. With UNTAG’s help, the Ju/’hoansi learned to rebut the anti-liberation propaganda of the departing South African Defence Force (SADF). NNFC communities were enabled to vote at polling booths that were helicoptered into their remote area. Being part of the process that brought about the absolute end of the repressive, Afrikaner-dominated South West Africa (SWA) regime—and ended petty apartheid in their area...

  17. Chapter Seven The Nyae Nyae Development Foundation of Namibia
    (pp. 153-167)

    The Nyae Nyae Farmers Cooperative (NNFC) had developed in tandem with the non-governmental organization that mentored it. Founded in 1981, John Marshall and Claire Ritchie’s non-profit foundation was one of the earliest established NGOs in Namibia. Originally called the Cattle Fund, the !Kung San Foundation was officially incorporated in December 1982, although development work had already started in March 1981. The Ju/’hoan trustees appointed (by the founders) were /Ui /Ai!ae (N=aqmtjoha), G=kao Debe (/Aotcha), Kxao /Ai!ae (N=anemh), and N!ani Kxao (Gura). In September 1982, the University Centre for Studies in Namibia (TUCSIN), based in Windhoek and founded by archaeologist and...

  18. Chapter Eight The Nyae Nyae Farmers Cooperative after Independence
    (pp. 168-197)

    Some longer processes of change unfolding in Nyae Nyae during the middle years of the 1990s centrally challenged long-operative Ju/’hoan notions of social equity.¹ These challenged notions evolved, as we saw in earlier chapters, both in the context of the local community, as represented by the Nyae Nyae Farmers Cooperative (NNFC) and its development projects, and in the wider Namibian context of land and local governance policy issues. They also developed in a matrix of continued involvement with the NNFC’s NGO partner, the Nyae Nyae Development Foundation of Namibia (NNDFN), itself experiencing growing pains and questions about its mandate to...

  19. Chapter Nine Community-Based Natural Resource Management and Other Development Models
    (pp. 198-226)

    In June 1998, the Nyae Nyae Farmers Cooperative (NNFC) became the Nyae Nyae Conservancy (NNC), the first conservancy on communal land in Namibia. This chapter describes the lead-up to the establishment of the NNC, starting in 1992, and the way its policies and procedures have been worked through and refined up to the present.

    In the period between 1992 and 2010, there were many events that significantly affected the well-being of the Ju/’hoansi in Nyae Nyae. Some were related to the NNFC/NNC organization and its decisions about the use of Nyae Nyae’s natural resources. Others involved the work of the...

  20. Chapter Ten Nyae Nyae Conservancy Programs and the Future
    (pp. 227-244)

    The previous chapter brought our chronicle up to date regarding the continuing attempts of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy (NNC) to foster environmentally appropriate economic development in Nyae Nyae. In this chapter, we describe three more of the NNC’s main programs, those in the areas of health, education, and community heritage conservation. We use the history of these three programs to explore answers to questions posed throughout the book about the future of Nyae Nyae.

    The Ju/’hoansi, like other indigenous peoples, are undergoing major changes in health and nutrition (Jenkins 1994; Ohenjo et al. 2006; Stevens et al. 2005; Wiessner and...

  21. References
    (pp. 245-258)
  22. Index
    (pp. 259-270)