Khoikhoi (/ˈkɔɪˌkɔɪ/; "people people" or "real people") or
Khoi, spelt Khoekhoe in standardised Khoekhoe/Nama orthography, are a
Khoisan people native to southwestern Africa. Unlike the
neighbouring hunter-gatherer San people, the
practised nomadic pastoral agriculture. When European immigrants
colonised the area after 1652, the
Khoikhoi maintained large herds of
Nguni cattle in the Cape region. The Dutch settlers referred to them
as Hottentots (/ˈhɒtənˌtɒts/; Dutch: Hottentotten), in imitation
of the sound of the click sounds that are characteristic of the
Khoekhoe language. Since the late 20th century, the Khoikhoi
consider that exonym derogatory and offensive.
Archaeological evidence shows that the
Khoikhoi arrived in present-day
South Africa from
Botswana through two distinct routes:
travelling west, skirting the Kalahari to the west, then down to the
travelling southeast out into the
Highveld and then southwards to the
The largest group of the
Khoikhoi is the Nama.
(See also Damara people.)
1.1 Early history
1.2 Arrival of Europeans
1.4 Kat River settlement (1829–1856) and the Khoi in the Cape Colony
1.5 Massacres in German South-West Africa
2.2 World Heritage
3 See also
5 Further reading
6 External links
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The Khoikhoi, originally part of a pastoral culture and language group
to be found across Southern Africa, originated in the northern area of
modern Botswana. This ethnic group steadily migrated southward,
eventually reaching the Cape approximately 2,000 years ago. Khoikhoi
subgroups include the Namaqua to the west, the Korana of mid-South
Africa, and the
Khoikhoi in the south. Their husbandry of sheep, goats
and cattle grazing in fertile valleys across the region provided a
stable, balanced diet, and allowed the
Khoikhoi to live in larger
groups in a region previously occupied by the San, who were
subsistence hunter-gatherers. Advancing Bantu in the 3rd century AD
encroached on the
Khoikhoi territory, pushing them into more arid
areas. There was some intermarriage between migratory Khoi bands
living around what is today
Cape Town and the San. But the two groups
remained culturally distinct, as the
Khoikhoi continued to graze
livestock and the San to subsist on hunting-gathering.
Arrival of Europeans
The Khoi first encountered Portuguese explorers and merchants around
AD 1500. The ongoing encounters were often violent. Local population
dropped after the Khoi were exposed to smallpox by Europeans, who
carried it as an endemic disease. The Khoi suffered high mortality as
they had no acquired immunity to the new infectious disease. The Khoi
waged more frequent attacks against Europeans when the Dutch East
India Company enclosed traditional grazing land for farms. Over the
following century, the Khoi were steadily driven off their land, which
effectively ended their traditional life.
Khoikhoi social organisation was profoundly damaged and, in the end,
destroyed by colonial expansion and land seizure from the late 17th
century onwards. As social structures broke down, some
settled on farms and became bondsmen (bondservants) or farm workers;
others were incorporated into existing clan and family groups of the
Xhosa people. Georg Schmidt, a Moravian Brother from Herrnhut, Saxony,
now Germany, founded
Genadendal in 1738, which was the first mission
station in southern Africa, among the Khoi people in Baviaanskloof
in the Riviersonderend Mountains.
Adam Kok, leader of the Griqua nation
See also: Griqua people
Early European settlers sometimes intermarried with indigenous
Khoikhoi women, resulting in a sizeable mixed-race population now
known as the Griqua. They were known at the time as "Basters" and in
some instances are still so called, e. g., the Bosluis Basters of
Richtersveld and the
Baster community of Rehoboth, Namibia.
Another group were the Griqua. Like other mixed-race peoples and the
Khoikhoi, they left the
Cape Colony and migrated into the interior.
Responding to the influence of missionaries, they formed the states of
Griqualand West and Griqualand East; these were later absorbed into
Cape Colony of the British Empire.
Kat River settlement (1829–1856) and the Khoi in the Cape
Khoi marksmen played a key role in the Cape Frontier Wars
By the early 1800s, the remaining Khoi of the
Cape Colony suffered
from restricted civil rights and discriminatory laws on land
ownership. With this pretext, the powerful Commissioner General of the
Eastern Districts, Andries Stockenstrom, facilitated the creation of
the "Kat River" Khoi settlement near the eastern frontier of the Cape
Colony. The more cynical motive was probably to create a buffer-zone
on the Cape's frontier, but the extensive fertile land in the region
allowed the Khoi to own their land and build communities in peace. The
settlements thrived and expanded, and Kat River quickly became a large
and successful region of the Cape that subsisted more or less
autonomously. The people were predominantly Afrikaans-speaking Gonaqua
Khoi, but the settlement also began to attract other Khoi, Xhosa and
mixed-race groups of the Cape.
The Khoi were known at the time for being very good marksmen, and were
often invaluable allies of the
Cape Colony in its frontier wars with
the neighbouring Xhosa. In the Seventh Frontier War (1846–1847)
Gcaleka Xhosa, the Khoi gunmen from Kat River
distinguished themselves under their leader
Andries Botha in the
assault on the "Amatola fastnesses". (The young John Molteno, later
Prime Minister, led a mixed Commando in the assault, and later praised
the Khoi as having more bravery and initiative than most of his white
However harsh laws were still implemented in the Eastern Cape, to
encourage the Khoi to leave their lands in the Kat River region and to
work as labourers on white farms. The growing resentment exploded in
1850. When the Xhosa rose against the Cape Government, large numbers
of Khoi for the first time joined the Xhosa rebels.
After the defeat of the rebellion and the granting of representative
government to the
Cape Colony in 1853, the new Cape Government
endeavoured to grant the Khoi political rights to avert future racial
discontent. Attorney General William Porter was famously quoted as
saying that he "would rather meet the Hottentot at the hustings,
voting for his representative, than meet him in the wilds with his gun
upon his shoulder". Thus, the government enacted the Cape
franchise in 1853, which decreed that all male citizens meeting a low
property test, regardless of colour, had the right to vote and to seek
election in Parliament. However, this non-racial principle was eroded
in the late 1880s by a literacy test, and later abolished by the
Khoikhoi prisoners of war in German South-West Africa, 1904
Massacres in German South-West Africa
See also: Herero and Namaqua genocide
From 1904 to 1907, the Germans took up arms against the
living in what was then German South-West Africa, along with the
Herero. Over 10,000 Nama, more than half of the total Nama population
at the time, may have died in the conflict. This was the single
greatest massacre ever witnessed by the
The religious mythology of the
Khoikhoi gives special significance to
the Moon, which may have been viewed as the physical manifestation of
a supreme being associated with heaven. Tsui'goab is also believed to
be the creator and the guardian of health, while Gunab is primarily an
evil being, who causes sickness or death. Many
converted to Christianity and Nama Muslims make up a large percentage
of the Namibia's Muslims.
UNESCO has recognised
Khoikhoi culture through its inscription of the
Richtersveld as a World Heritage Site. This important area is the only
place where transhumance practices associated with the culture
continue to any great extent.
International Astronomical Union
International Astronomical Union named the primary component of
the binary star Mu¹ Scorpii after the traditional
Khoikhoi name Xami
di mura ('eyes of the lion').
South Africa portal
Herero and Namaqua genocide
History of South Africa
^ Richards, John F. (2003). "8: Wildlife and Livestock in South
Africa". The Unending Frontier: An Environmental History of the Early
Modern World. California World History Library. 1. Berkeley,
California: University of California Press. p. 296.
ISBN 9780520939356. Retrieved 17 November 2016. The nomadic
Khoikhoi kraals were dispersed and their organization and
culture broken. However, their successors, the trekboers and their
Khoikhoi servants, managed flocks and herds similar to those of the
Khoikhois. The trekboers had adapted to African-style, extensive
pastoralism in this region. In order to obtain optimal pasture for
their animals, early settlers imitated the
transhumance movements and those observed in the larger wild
^ Rev. Prof Johannes Du Plessis, B.A., B.D. (1917). "Report of the
South African Association for the Advancement of Science".
pp. 189–193. Retrieved 5 July 2010. CS1 maint: Multiple
names: authors list (link)
^ Strobel, Christoph (2008). "A Note on Terminology". The Testing
Grounds of Modern Empire: The Making of Colonial Racial Order in the
American Ohio Country and the South African Eastern Cape,
1770s–1850s. Peter Lang.
^ Desmond, Adrian; Moore, James (2014). "Living in Slave Countries".
Darwin's Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin's Views
on Human Evolution. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 103.
^ Jeremy I. Levitt, ed. (2015). "Female "things" in international
law". Black Women and International Law. Cambridge University Press.
^ "Bring Back the 'Hottentot Venus'". Web.mit.edu. 15 June 1995.
Retrieved 13 August 2012.
^ "Hottentot". American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
(Fifth ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 2011.
^ "'Hottentot Venus' goes home". BBC News. 29 April 2002. Retrieved 13
^ Pre-colonial Cultures in South Africa: The San and Khoikhoi
^ The Pear Tree Blossoms, Bernhard Krueger, Hamburg, Germany
^ Molteno, P. A. (1900). The life and times of Sir John Charles
Molteno, K. C. M. G., First Premier of Cape Colony, Comprising a
History of Representative Institutions and Responsible Government at
the Cape. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
^ Vail, Leroy, ed. (1989). The Creation of Tribalism in Southern
Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press.
ISBN 0520074203. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
^ Fraser, Ashleigh (3 June 2013). "A Long Walk To Universal Franchise
in South Africa". HSF.org.za. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
^ Jeremy Sarkin-Hughes (2008) Colonial Genocide and Reparations Claims
in the 21st Century: The Socio-Legal Context of Claims under
International Law by the Herero against Germany for Genocide in
Namibia, 1904–1908, p. 142, Praeger Security International,
Westport, Conn. ISBN 978-0-313-36256-9
^ Moses, A. Dirk (2008). Empire, Colony, Genocide: Conquest,
Occupation and Subaltern Resistance in World History. New York:
Berghahn Books. ISBN 9781845454524. CS1 maint: Uses authors
^ "Reconstructing the Past – the Khoikhoi: Religion and
^ "Islam in Namibia, making an impact". Islamonline.net.
^ "IAU Approves 86 New Star Names From Around the World" (Press
release). IAU.org. 11 December 2017.
P. Kolben, Present State of the Cape of Good Hope (London, 1731–38);
A. Sparman, Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope (Perth, 1786);
Sir John Barrow, Travels into the Interior of
South Africa (London,
Bleek, Wilhelm, Reynard the Fox in South Africa; or Hottentot Fables
and Tales (London, 1864);
Emil Holub, Seven Years in
South Africa (English translation, Boston,
G. W. Stow, Native Races of
South Africa (New York, 1905);
A. R. Colquhoun, Africander Land (New York, 1906);
L. Schultze, Aus Namaland und Kalahari (Jena, 1907);
Meinhof, Carl, Die Sprachen der Hamiten (Hamburg, 1912);
Khoikhoi and the Founding of White South Africa
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Khoikhoi.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Cultural Contact in Southern Africa by Anne Good for the Women in
World History website
An article on the history of the Khoikhoi
The Khoekhoe People of Southern Africa
Ethnic groups in Namibia
Bold denotes major ethnic groups.
Ethnic groups in South Africa
Khoi and San