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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Was Nelson Mandela part Bushman?

Yesterday's post on leadership reminded me of something I thought every time I saw a picture of Nelson Mandela: that he looked as much Bushman as Bantu. Mandela was born into a Thembu royal family, and the Thembu are a Bantu tribe (almost all African-Americans are of Bantu descent).

But Mandela himself looked as if he had Khoi-san (Bushman) ancestry:


Here are some pictures of Bushmen, who are a distinct ethnic group:






Mandela has the same almost exaggerated cheekbones, round face, barely visible eyebrows, and hooded eyes of a Bushman. The Thembu were a southern African tribe, so it's certainly not inconceivable that some admixture occurred.

The original Boer settlers in South Africa were reportedly awed by the Bushmen's endurance, patience, courage, and tracking ability.

If Mandela did in fact have some Bushmen ancestry, that might partially explain his patience and fortitude.

16 comments:

Steven said...

I always thought he looked Khoisan. I just took it for granted that he was since he was from that part of Africa. There's not much doubting it really.

Steven said...

I always thought he had an intelligent face too. Maybe that's just a subconscious bias- he reminds me a bit of Chinese people with the almost slanty eyes and he has thinner features than typical black Africans.

Steven said...

Looking again, I think he actually had epicanthic folds. I wonder if NE Asians came from Africans with epicanthic folds or if they evolved them in NE Asia.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Not sure i'd say he has an intelligent face, but he does seem to have a kindly face. You're right, he -- and the Bushmen -- do seem to have a slightly Asian look. What's interesting about Mandela is that when he was younger, he actually looked more typically Bantu; I didn't include any of those pictures because they wouldn't have helped make my case, but I was surprised when I saw them. I suspect his "epicanthic" folds may be at least partly a function of his age, since eyelids tend to hang heavier in older people.

Steven said...

In any case, you are surely right and he was part Khoisan. You can see the Bantu look quite clearly when he was young and had a fuller face but the Khoisan look is quite evident too, more or less depending on the photo.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Agreed.

Skummelskog Trollbutt said...

The sick obsession with racializing indigenous Africans... He is part khoisan on his maternal side. No shock there. Goodness gracious. Do you people get so excited trying to figure out if a Brit is part Irish? Or a Swede part Italian? -_-

John Craig said...

Skummelskog --
I like your name.

Trust me, I'm not obsessed with Mandela's ancestry. His possible Bushman ancestry is just something that occurred to me when I looked at a picture of him, and I haven't given it much thought since.

If you look at most of his official biographies, he is listed as being part Thembu and part Ixhiba, both of which are Bantu tribes. The Bushmen are actually a distinct race.

And yes, to answer your question, I do find ancestry in general interesting. Go to this post about my own ancestry (I had my own DNA tested through Ancestry.com) if you want proof:

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2013/10/my-revised-ancestrycom-results.html

Steven said...

Skummelskog,

I am also interested in race and ancestry in general. I've always been a keen observer of facial features and how they correlate with geography. I was just thinking yesterday how the only women I ever see who look like my mum are Irish and that's because of her Irish ancestry (her grandfather was from Dublin). So there.

The world is pretty interesting, don't be so touchy.

Steven said...

btw, I recently learned they're called Khoisan because they are Khoi and San: San bushmen foragers (hunter gatherers I guess) and Khoi pastoralists (farmers who have livestock.)

fyi.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Coincidentally, I just read that yesterday. Your comment got me to thinking about something and I looked it up and read the same thing.

BTW, thanks for defending the post to Skummelskog, but I'm sure he's long gone. The politically correct types rarely stick around long on this blog.

Unknown said...

It's because they want to believe all Africans look like Michael Blackson. Not realizing Africa birthed every facial feature you see today. Just ignorance and western brainwashing.

Anonymous said...

Nelson Mandela's Mother is from San tribe, that explains his look. His father is from Xhosa tribe. In most African traditions, you belong to your father tribe.
Nelson Mandela described his father as being tall and dark, which characteristics are commom among bantus.
So yes Nelson Mandela is part Bushman

Unknown said...

African Americans are not of Bantu descent, who wrote this? Majority of African Americans are of West African origin. There are no Bantus in West Africa

John Craig said...

Unknown --
Take a look at the map of the Bantu diaspora in this Wiki article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bantu_peoples

Unknown said...

That person is correct. Almost all AA's have Bantu lineage. It may be large or small but it's there.