The Cape Indigene People Remembered

One way of celebrating Cape Indigene heritage is to spread an understanding of the terms and wonderful clan names of the indigenous groups. David 2The more accurate – Khoe (singularly) is often spelt Khoi; and the more accurate – Khoena (plural) is sometimes spelt Quena, or Khoina or KhoenKhoen or KhoinKhoin or KhoiKhoi. The term Khoe or Khoi has the same meaning as the Nguni word Bantu – Both Khoena and Bantu simply means people. The anthropological term  Khoisan is not an indigenous word per se, but was originally made up and introduced into usage by a German academic. But it has since come into popular usage to collectively refer to Africa’s southernmost pastoral herder people and hunter-gatherers at the time of first European contact with Southern Africa.

There are three branches of descendants of these southernmost indigenous people. The first branch are the few small surviving San and Cape Khoena clans recognised to be amongst 5 most marginalised indigenous groups today (also including the Nama, Korana and the Griqua). These are sometimes referred to as the ‘survivalists’.The second branch are those amoungst the people referred to us ‘Coloured’ who can trace part of their ancestry to Khoena and San clans and express their desire to revive this identity affinity (up to 32%). They are sometimes referred to as the ‘revivalists’. The third branch are people amongst the amaXhosa in particular (up to 17%) but also amongst other Sotho and Nguni peoples (eg:Nelson Mandela) who along with others referred to as ‘Coloured’ who also have significant Khoena and San bloodlines and heritage and wish to celebrate their Khoena and San ancestry and culture along with other tributaries in their lineage. These may be referred to as those who ‘celebrationists’.

Heritage and identity in the Cape is complex and very important to many whose very sense of identity was raped and suppressed during the periods of colonialism and Apartheid and replaced by social engineering terminologies and constructs. Post Apartheid all now have the freedom to explore their heritage and identity for the first time in many generations.

Amongst the second and third branch there are a range of different ways in which people express their Khoena and San affinities and each of these expressions equally should be respected. Some wish to express themselves singularly as Khoena and San descendants and others wish to express their Khoena and San lineage along with that of other tributaries such as their slave ancestors or of other African Indigene ancesters as well. Both tendencies are legitimate expressions of identity and nobody should demand a singular outlook on matters of identity. All of these expressions are legitimate and should be respected.

While the term Khoena has been taken into the hearts of the descendent communities the original clan names are now more often used as people have gotten to know more about a heritage which had been suppressed for a long time.

The Southernmost tip of Africa was also home to the San people who were hunter gatherers who lived in small communities which had many settlements from Tanzania in the East right across to Angola in the West and down to the tip of Africa in the South. San bloodlines exist in almost all communities down the east coast of Africa from Kenya to the southern tip of the continent and back up the west coast to Angola.

Many South Africans, particularly those with Khoena roots can also celebrate their San roots, and some chose to do this by accentuating a KhoiSan identity. The Europeans found both the Khoena and the San to be living in the Western Cape. When they arrived and when the Europeans moved inland they also found integrated communities of Khoena and amaXhosa in the eastern reaches of the South Western Cape.

Each of these expressions and the sense of identity expressed by those using the terms to identify themselves and their identities are not in conflict with each other. In the post-Apartheid era of discovery and healing as people explore and find new dimensions we grow and learn.

The Khoena group that the Europeans first interacted with were the maroon Khoena known as the Goringhaicona, a small grouping made up ofdrifters from various Khoena clans. It was these people who settled at the river mouth of the Camissa, who we here refer to as the Camissa people who founded the city of Cape Town.

The Khoena clans which spread out throughout the Cape from Camissa in a Westerly and Easterly direction included the Goringhaiqua, the Chainouqua, the Cochoqua, the Gorachoqua, Guriqua or Chariguriqua, the Hessequa, the Attaqua, the Cauqua, the Houtunqua, the Omaqua, the Chamaqua, the Hamcumqua, the Cobuqua. the Namaqua, the Einiqua, the Damasqua, the Gamtoos, the Inqua, the Gonaqua, and the Hoengeyqua. Many through oral histories, formal historical records, genealogy and DNA are discovering linkages with these old clans every day. These discoveries are a liberating experience celebrated with much joy. But there is very little understanding in broader South African society of just how deeply meaningful this knowledge and experience is for people who had been stripped of their African roots, particularly after the last great Khoena warriors Klaas Stuurman and Davis Stuurman led the last Khoena wars of resistance in the first two decades of the 19th century.


3 thoughts on “CAPE INDIGENES

  1. who are AmaNgqosini? it is said they are Khoi Sotho who travelled to abaThembu and amaXhosa, led by Gaba and Mjobi.

    • This is correct. They were a Khoena (Khoi) people with some Sotho admixture who were assimilated into the amaXhosa after the time of the establishment of the Tshawe Kingdom. At least six Khoena groups were assimilated into the Xhosa at this time. Further assimilation happen when the powerful Inqua Khoena got involved in Xhosa politics of fratiricide during the ascension of the House of Phalo and were also assimilated. After that there was a rebellion within the Xhosa that led to a Khoena-Xhosa breakaway called the Gqunukwebe who were strongly associated with the Gonaqua Khoena. About one third of the modern Xhosa are in fact Khoena (Khoi).

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