The Khoikhoi, also known as the Khoi, Khoekhoe, or Khoisan people, are a group of indigenous people of southwestern Africa, primarily in South Africa and Namibia. The name "Khoikhoi" means "men of men" or "people of people," while "Khoisan" refers to the linguistic and genetic heritage of the Khoikhoi and San people.
The Khoikhoi were traditionally pastoralists who raised cattle, sheep, and goats and moved seasonally in search of grazing land. They lived in small, decentralized communities, each led by a chief or headman. Except for special occasions, Khoe only ate animals that had died or were stolen from enemies (source). Many intermarried with the San, though the groups remained culturally distinct (source). The Khoikhoi were known for their unique click languages, which are still spoken by some groups today.
The arrival of European settlers in the 17th century had a devastating impact on the Khoikhoi, as they were dispossessed of their land and forced into servitude on Dutch farms. Many Khoikhoi were also killed by European diseases to which they had no immunity. The Khoikhoi were later displaced by the Bantu-speaking peoples who migrated into southern Africa from the north.
Often regarded as one of the oldest cultures in the world, the Khoekhoe were exposed to smallpox and driven off their land. Their social organization was "profoundly damaged and in the end, destroyed by white colonial expansion and land seizure from the late seventeenth century onwards (source)."
In the early '90s, the Richtersveld National Park was created, and in 2002 land that included the park was returned to community ownership and the governments of South Africa, Namibia, and Angola. Today, it is one of the few places where the traditional Khoikhoi way of life survives (source).
Today, the Khoikhoi people are a minority group in South Africa, with most living in the Northern and Western Cape provinces. Many Khoikhoi have lost their cultural identity and language due to centuries of marginalization and discrimination. However, efforts are being made to revive and preserve Khoikhoi culture, language, and traditions and to assert their rights as a distinct and marginalized group within South Africa.
May they thrive.
Drawing by Samuel Daniell