With the advent of European civilization, much of
the original Hottentot culture has disappeared. Their clothing especially has
been almost everywhere completely replaced by garments of European pattern, and
it is rarely, if at all, that the old native dress can still be seen. But from
the descriptions of the earlier writers it is possible to obtain a fairly clear
picture of what the Hottentots wore before European clothing became as widely
adopted as now to be their universal dress.
The clothing of both men and women consisted
principally in front and rear aprons of skin, depending from a leather thong
tied round the waist. The front apron of the men was a small piece of jackal or
wild cat skin, shaped somewhat like a pouch, with the fur turned outwards, and
barely sufficing to cover the genitals; while from behind hung a large
triangular piece of soft dried skin, with the broad part downwards, which they
would draw under them when they sat to hold a few personal possessions, such as
the pipe and tabacco.
The women wore large triangular rear apron, two ends
of which were tied in front, while the third, hanging down behind, fully
covered the buttocks and reached down to the knees. From the knot in front
depended another apron, not quite so big; its lower part was cut into long thin
strips to form a fringe, and was variously decorated with shells, beads, and
other trinkets? Beneath this is a smaller apron, not ornamented, was sometimes
worn as well; it served more strictly the ends of modesty, and was drawn
beneath the legs when the women sat down. A leather strap or sometimes a long
string of perforated ostrich eggshell beads was also passed round the waist
above the aprons, and on this girdle were tied tortoise-shell boxes containing
powered buchu. The upper part was generally left bare, but in wet or cold
weather a kaross was worn by both men and women. It was made preferably of
sheepskins or of several jackal or wild cat skins sewn together with sinews,
and was tied with a strap across the breast so as to hang over the shoulders.
In winter the hairy side was turn in, in summer it faced outwards.
Nowadays all the men have European coast and
trousers, and women wear fashioned cotton apron or woollen petticoat and print
dress. Sandals of thick skin, tied round the ankle with thongs, were put on for
long marches. The women wore at all times a pointed skin cap, and the women
keep their head covered, although now they prefer to use large coloured
kerchiefs, which have become one of the most common articles of trade with
them. The men generally went with their heads uncovered, although in wet or
cold weather a sheepskin cap might be worn with the hairy side turned inwards.
Today the broad felt hat is largely worn.
Ornament was equally change, in prefer of the past.
Both men and women carry small leather pouches hung round the neck, containing
the knife, pipe, tobacco, money etc. Little horns, tortoise-shells, and other
odds and ends are also worn as finery or as charm. Formerly armlets of ivory
and copper were found amongst men, while women wore rings and armlets, as well
as necklaces of ostrich eggshell beads, teeth, or shells. They sewed strips of
raw hide round their legs in the form of rings, when dry it rattle against each
other and made noise when they moved
Where a burial takes place, it is accompanied by a
series of rites. A person when in the last agonies of dying was surrounded by
his or her friends and relatives, who wailed and writhed in lamentation, the
outburst of grief reaching its climax as soon as actual death had occurred.
The body while still warm was bent so as to bring
the head between the legs, and in this position it was wrapped and tied up in
the Kaross worn by the dead person during life.
Burial took place soon after death, if possible on the same day, or at
least the following morning. There were no special burial grounds or recognized
grave-yards. Immediately after the death had taken place, the head of the
kraal, with several of the men, went out to look for a suitable spot, where the
grave was at once made. It took the form of a deep hole, in one side of which
was hollowed out a special niche for the reception of the body. Sometimes they
did not trouble to dig a grave, but selected a convenient cleft in a rock or
the hole of some wild animal instead. The body was prepared for burial in the
When everything was ready, three or four men were
appointed by the kraal head or by the relatives of the deceased to carry it in
their arms to the grave. The deceased was never taken out through the door of
the hut, but rather by an opening specially made for this purpose by removing
part of the mat-covering at the back. While this was going on, all inhabitants
of the kraal not concerned with the funeral preparations gathered before the
hut, in front of the entrance, men and women apart, all lamenting loudly. As
soon as the body was brought out, the followed in two separated groups to the
place of burial, still lamenting and wailing.
Here the body was stuck into the hole or lowered
into the grave, and place into a sitting position in the niche. The grave was then
filled in with earth, and afterwards covered over with a heap of large stones
and branches, so as to prevent wild animals from getting at the body. Apparently
no objects of any kind were place in or on the grave. When they are done
everyone returned to the kraal. The men and women apart in front of the hut,
repeating the wailing and calling frequently the dead person on his or her
Subsequently, when at last silence fell, the oldest
of the men arose, entered the circle first of the men than of the women, and
besprinkled them. He then entered the hut through the door, took some ashes
from the hearth, came out by the opening previous made, and strewed the ashes
over all of them, who rubbed them on their bodies. Some relatives also took cow
dung and smeared it over their arms, legs and body. Then they went to their
huts, the love ones of the deceased, however, did not dare not to enter the hut
where the person died, but seek accommodation with other people. The heir of
the dead person must slaughtered a sheep, and such all other relatives who can
afford it did the same. All who were present at the funeral were feasted by
this meat. The caul of the sheep were thickly strewn with buchu, twisted into
accord, and hung round the neck of the heir, where it will rotten away. Those
relatives who were not able to afford the slaughtering of a sheep must shave
their heads in furrowed ridges as a sign that they too were in mourning.
The following day all the huts in the kraal were
taken down and the people left the locality, but the hut of the dead person was
left standing with all its belongings. Nothing must be taken from it.
Circumcision as in the case of the Bushmen, was
although both the San and the Khoi circumcised. Only the elderly men is
intrusted with this ceremony. The custom were practice because the women belief
to have intercourse with a man who had not this operation performed upon him
they will bear twins, the men beliefs it’s a purpose to increase the swiftness
of the man in running
THE BURAIL RITES BY THE GRIQUA PEOPLE
After some love one passed on the eyes of the dead person
are closed, then the body is washed by the old women, and stretched flat on its
back, the arms lie along the sides, and the hands, palm downward, are folded over
The body is then wrapped and sewn up in skins, whose hairy
side, strewn with buchu, is turned inwards. The face remains free till shortly
before burial, when it is covered with a bit of skin which has been set aside
and which is now loosely stitched to the others. After 1854 the body was
sometimes sewn up in old bags, if obtainable, in a small amount of salt is
placed on its chest, to prevent it from decomposing.
Burials take place as
a rule on the afternoon following the day of the death. Till then the corpse is
left alone lying on skins on the ground in the hut, while the relatives,
neighbours, and friends spend the whole night together outside the hut singing.
A suitable spot is selected in the vicinity of the kraal,
where a grave is dug in the sand by means of a gemsbok horn and a roughly made wooden
shovel. The grave is about three feet broad and six feet deep, with along
narrow niche along one side. The body is taken out of the hut through a special
opening made for the purpose at the back, and is carried to the grave by the
deceased’s relatives and friends.
At the graveside, one of the elderly women who is appointed
by the relatives will approach the body and ask a relative if the deceased ever
do good while he was alive, then all the women will replied “da” means yes, the
deceased will be praised even he wasn’t a good person. The women walk towards
the grave and sprinkle buchu-leaves on the body.
The body is then lowered into the grave by means of riems,
and two men climb in after it to push it into the niche. It is laid on its
back, with the grave itself on the right hand side and the head facing east.
The niche is closed in with thick bushes or with twigs and stones which cover
the whole floor of the grave. Large flat stones are next placed over these in
such a way that no ground can fall upon the body. The grave is then filled in,
everybody present picking up handfuls of earth and sand which they throw in. Finally
amount of stones is heaped up over the covered grave, the customary explanation
being that this prevents wild animals from getting at the corpse. These mounds
are often raised very high. A big stone, planted upright in the heap and
projecting about a foot or so, indicates the head end of the grave, the gemsbok
horn used in excavating the grave is placed in this position. Everybody add a
twig of a stone to the mound, which is afterwards strewn with buchu. Everybody
relative to the dead person unable to be present at the funeral will also, on
visiting the kraal, go to the grave and placed something on the mound. No women
with babies or children will attend the funeral rites.
When the people come back from the grave, all inmates of the
kraal wash their hands with cold water, which is placed in front of the dead
person hut, the water will also be sprinkled where the dead person has lied
before buried, it means by washing hands to prevent to get sick, and the
sprinkled is to prevent that the sickness from spreading, except the bereaved
family and closed relatives who are not allowed to touch water.
The relative’s slaughtered animals collected the blood into
one or more pots. The entrails are collected in other pots and the meat in
other pots, all different families who are taking part providing pots. The
blood is heated to boiling point, and mixed with a certain herb, and stirred
about with a chopper, which has been heated red hot, in order to make the steam
rise. The relatives covered their heads with karosses over the pots so that
they perspire. One of the elders of the kraal will take the pot black and make
a mark on the stomach of each person, for preventing to get stomach pains when
eating the meat. Only the relatives of the dead person will eat the meat the
rest will eat the entrails, all these rites are committed at the dead person
Cold water is likewise thrown on the grave of a newly buried
person; often the men return the next day to thrown water on the grave, the
reasons is to harden the grave so that wild beast could dig there. The removal of the kraal is not with the Griqua’s
or the Namas. They beliefs that who treads on a grave, passes on unmindfully,
or points at a grave with the finger, has disturbed the rest of the dead and must expect the revenge of the dead.,
THE NAMA BURAIL RITES
The series of rites connected with the death and burial
among the Nama have been more fully described, but as found at present they
undergone some disintegration. They have been telescoped, as it were, into one
another, so that often enough as many of them as remain are all carried out on
the same day, after the burial. These rites fall into the category of those
associated with conception of a !nau, and in them the sacramental meal and
cleansing are still of importance. After the death not only the immediate
relatives are effective, but also the larger family circle of the deceased. If
it is the husband who has died, the wife becomes !nau, his relatives- brothers,
sisters, parents- also have to perform certain special rites before the
ceremonial meal, and in a lesser degree all members of the kraal who take part
in the proceedings. Similarly, if a woman dies her husband becomes !nau, while
her own blood relatives perform certain rites, when the child died both parents
become !nau and have to undergo the usual rites associated with this condition.
As soon as the death has taken place, the body of the person
is prepared for burial.
The son of the death person must first slaughter a goat and
smeared the body of his father with blood.
Formerly, the hands were crossed over the breast, and the head bent
forward between the legs, which were sharply folded at the knee. The body was
then fastened together and wrapped in skins.