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Rain Stories: Interpreting Water Beings in the Folklore of the Southern African Khoisan and their Descendants

Folkloristika 4/1 (2019): 193‒210
Аuthor: Anne Solomon 
Тext: PDF


The importance of rain and rain animals in the lore of San- and Khoe-speaking peoples in southern Africa is well-known, especially via studies of rock paintings. The figure of the ‘Rain Bull’, !Khwa, in the nineteenth century oral narratives of the /Xam is therefore of considerable interest. Interpreting this being, especially via recent interviews with Khoisan descendants, presents various difficulties. Conclusions depend significantly on the methods employed by analysts of the texts, and pre-existing ideas about the nature of San religious belief and practice. This paper outlines a different reading of and approach to understanding the figure of !Khwa to that presented by De Prada-Samper (2018) and highlights the need for a more rigorous approach to the materials, especially with regard to methods and assessments of historical continuities.
Keywords: Khoisan, San, oral narrative, rain, !Khwa, water animal, southern Africa, hunter-gatherers.