" The Khoisan, the oldest known inhabitants of our land, testify to our common humanity and heritage as South Africans. The figures are depicted in an attitude of greeting, symbolising unity. This also represents the beginning of the individual's transformation into the greater sense of belonging to the nation and by extension, collective Humanity."
The human figures
Khoisan is a collective name given to the Khoikhoi and the San, who are the oldest known inhabitants of South Africa. The figures on the Coat of Arms are from the Linton Stone, a world famous example of South African Rock Art, painted by these people, now housed and displayed in the South African Museum in Cape Town.
The name Khoikhoi meaning 'men of men' or 'genuine people' was given to themselves by this group of people, who travelled down from Zimbabwe and Botswana to the Cape over 2000 years ago.
When they arrived, they found a people whom we know as the San, already living in the area. The San resembled the Khoikhoi in a number of ways. The San are the group we now know as the Bushmen, so named by the Europeans who arrived at the Cape in 1652.
The main distinction between the two groups is that the Khoikhoi were cattle-keepers (herders), whereas the San were hunter-gatherers. In appearance, the Khoikhoi were taller than the San and their language differed somewhat, although both contain the 'click' sounds.
Overtaken by black cattle herders and white settlers from Europe, the San who continued the hunter-gatherer way of life was forced to retreat to the dry Kalahari desert, where they are still today, albeit in smaller numbers.
The Bushman believe that a special relationship exists between the Creator and a particular animal. The Bushman ascribed magical powers to the eland (buck), which is noticeable in nearly every aspect of their lives - their paintings, their various rituals, story-telling and dances.
The preying mantis is also regarded as having special powers. It would appear that no paintings have ever been found of the mantis, which may signify that in reverence to this god-like creature, it was perhaps forbidden to be painted. It is regarded as the ultimate in supernatural power and the greatest link with the divine.
To read more about these interesting people, visit the page of Nigel Crawhall of the Canadian University Service Oversea (CUSO) at http://www.cuso.org/coops/crawhall/e-cuso.html