Reconstructing the Past - the Khoikhoi
The Khoisan pages
An educational information resource
Provided by the Future Perfect Corporation

Raiding between different Khoikhoi groups took place on a regular basis. It seems that all herders share a 'high social evaluation of cattle and more-or-less severe environmental constraints which call for mobility, physical endurance and highly developed bush skills from the herders' (study by Fukui and Turton), and raiding fostered these skills. From a successful raid, herds are enlarged and status is raised. The labour needs of herding societies severely limits the size of the herd, and if, after a raid, the herd is too big to be looked after properly, reprisal raids may result in loss. Raiding and counter-raiding allowed for a balance to be reached between the needs of the group and its ability to manage the herd.

Raiding was also an integral part of the social reproductive process of all pastoral people, but these hostilities were controlled by conventions. If some of the rules were broken, i.e. raids became too frequent, too many cattle were taken, the abduction of young girls became excessive, then full-scale warfare could be averted by compensation and negotiation. The Dutch were asked to act as intermediaries and protectors during the first decade of the colony.

This juridical interference in Khoikhoi affairs increased, and the result was that the dependence of the Khoikhoi on the Dutch as arbiters increased. This implies greater economic and social control over the herders. By interfering in raiding between groups, the Dutch were not only setting themselves up as arbiters, but were undermining the authority of the Khoikhoi leaders. They were interfering in a major symbolic act of manhood, possibly placing the elders in conflict with the young men. A direct consequence of this would have been Khoikhoi emigration away from the Cape and Dutch influence.

The Khoikhoi
Reconstructing the Past
Where did they come from?
What did they do?
Social Organisation
Stock Ownership and Management
Religion and Nature
Further reading
The reference books used for the development of this site are recommended reading of the University of Cape Town and may be purchased online at Discovering Southern African Rock Art, The Bushmen of Southern Africa, Once We Were Hunters, The Cape Herders.
About this page
Where did it come from?
Developed by: Alan Levin
Edited by: Carolyn Neville
Sponsored by: Future Perfect Corporation
Special thanks to: Becky Ackermann and and David Philip Publishers
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