Original Research

The ‘Lost’ South African tribe – Rebirth of the Koranna1 in the Free State

P. Erasmus
New Contree | Vol 50 | a435 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/nc.v50i0.435 | © 2024 P. Erasmus | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 February 2024 | Published: 30 November 2005

About the author(s)

P. Erasmus, Department of Anthropology, University of the Free State, South Africa

Full Text:

PDF (119KB)


The Khoisan is the original inhabitants of southern Africa. The Koranna were one of the tribes that already lived in the vicinity of Cape Town before the arrival of the first white settlers (1652). They had an own culture, language, identity and racial basis. However, by 1932 the Koranna no longer existed. Colonisation had threatened their nomadic existence of cattle-farming and hunting, while two destructive wars (1868-69 and 1878- 79) against colonial oppressors had left them leaderless. Intermarriage, evangelisation, capitalisation (the discovery of diamonds in 1869-71 created a need for cheap labour at the diggings) and apartheid destroyed the tribal structures, cohesion and identity of the Koranna. According to the Population Registration Act of 1950, all South Africans who were not Whites or Blacks were regarded as “Coloureds” - the umbrella concept for the “residue” - those who did not fit in anywhere else. The Khoisan were stigmatised as “Coloureds” and were politically, socially and economically constrained to renounce their origins. The Department of Coloured Education, for example, prohibited the use of Khoisan languages amongst schoolchildren, while the Khoisan origins and culture were portrayed as “backward”. Constitutional accommodation and recognition are accorded to the Khoisan by the current government. A revival of traditional leadership and identity is evident everywhere. National and regional organisations are campaigning for political recognition and for linguistic and cultural regeneration. The Koranna, who were regarded as extinct, have also put in an appearance. After almost a century, there are virtually no more structures, knowledge, customs, or oral histories in existence, while political opportunism, nepotism and division are seriously hampering revival. In this contribution, the focus is on the Koranna in the Free State; on the regeneration of their structures and identity; as well as on the factors that are having a negative effect in this regard.


Koranna; Free State; ‘Lost’ South African tribe


Total abstract views: 111
Total article views: 48

Crossref Citations

No related citations found.