Although hip-hop began as an underground movement in the United States, its appeal as a form of social empowerment led to it becoming a global phenomenon. Whilst the authenticity and cult status of hip-hop has dwindled over recent years, a group of young Khwe Bushmen*, who recently encountered the musical genre, seem to be taking it back to its roots.
The Kwhe are one of the many indigenous San* groups who survived for hundreds of years as hunter-gatherers around the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa. During the 1960's postcolonial border war, they fled their desert homes in Angola and were resettled in Namibia where they were coerced into becoming trackers in the South African Defence Force. Following the independence of Namibia in 1990, many Khwe moved to tented camps in South Africa. In 2004 they were relocated to Platfontein, a settlement provided by the government outside the city of Kimberley in the Northern Cape.
Rapping in a mixture of Khwedam, Afrikaans and English, and using rudimentary digital equipment in a makeshift bedroom studio, they record rap music which reflect the realities of their everyday lives. In Platfontein, where issues of identity are complex, hip-hop provides a voice for the younger generations. Influenced by western ideals, the music acts as a coping mechanism and a form of expression which uniquely blends the present with the past.
*whilst the words 'Bushman' and 'San' are used because of their universal understanding, the authors acknowledge the complicated implications of these terms.
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