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I Dream Africa

I Dream Africa

Namibian People


The San / Bushmen

The Bushmen or San are regarded as the original inhabitants in southern Africa. After they could realize their traditional way of life as hunters and gatherers for thousands of years their living space was increasingly restricted by immigration of African tribes, and later, of the white colonizers / settlers. The allocation of reservations in which it is also prohibited for the San to use the natural resources, limits their living space. Today it is supposed that still about 40,000 Bushmen live in Namibia, however, only 10 % of them still practise their traditional, nomadic lifestyle. Most San people now live or work on farms in eastern Namibia or live in remote communal areas in Otjozondjupa and Omusati regions, having been strongly influenced in their way of life by Western culture, economies and lifestyle.

The Nama

The Nama lived initially as cattle breeding nomads in northern and southern regions of the Orange River, before they later moved further to the north and were involved into belligerent quarrels with the Herero. The Boers gave them the name "Hottentots", which has a negative touch and therefore uncustomary today. The Nama name themselves "Khoi-Khoi" - the true / real people. Known historical leaders of the Nama were Jan Jonker Afrikaaner and Hendrik Witbooi. In the Naukluft environed an insight can be gained into lifestyle of the Nama people by visiting the small community at Nabasib, 15 km south of Büllsport.

The Damara

The Damara are regarded as the oldest nation of Namibia next to the San. They stood a long time under displacement and suppression through the later immigrated Herero and Nama whose language they picked up also later. They call themselves with pride "Nu khoin" - Black people. The Damara make up a component of 8.5% of the Namibian nation. The majority live in the north-western regions of the country but others are found widely across Namibia, where they live and work in towns, on commercial farms, on mines, as well as at the coast.

The Herero

The Herero are a pastoral cattle breeding people who migrated to Namibia several centuries ago. Their wealth and the prestige are determined by the number of cattle they own. The remarkable and voluminous dress clothing of the Herero-women comes from the German colonial time, (Wilhelminische Tracht) and the more traditional Herero women still wear the attire to this day. During the revolt of the Herero, a majority of their people were killed and the remainder mainly driven out into current-day Botswana . Today, about 100,000 Herero live in Namibia again. The towns Okahandja and Okakarara are Herero-strongholds.

The Himba

The traditionally nomad pastoral tribe of the Himba or Ovahimba lives today still in very initial manner in the Kaokoland. Initially they belonged to the Herero and in contrary to them they have preserved most of traditions. The Himba, especially the women, are noted for their unusual sculptural beauty, enhanced by intricate hairstyles and traditional adornments. They rub their bodies with red ochre and fat, a treatment that protects their skins against the harsh desert climate. A family may move from one home to another several times a year to seek grazing for their goats and cattle. Men, women and children wear body adornments made from iron and shell beads.

The Owambo

With a part of about 50%, the Owambo set the by far greatest population group of Namibia. Their traditional settlement area is the central water-rich north at the boundary to Angola above the Etosha National Park. Owambo houses are traditionally of rondavel type, mostly surrounded by palisades and often connected by passages. Cattle kraals usually form part of the complex, which is surrounded by cultivated lands. The Owambo practise a mixed economy of agriculture, mainly mahangu (pearl millet), sorghum and beans, and animal husbandry (cattle) supplemented by fishing in shallow pools and watercourses called oshanas.

The Kavango

Forming the border between Namibia and Angola for more than 400 km is the Okavango River, lifetime of the Kavango people, who make a traditional living from fishing, cattle farming and cultivating sorghum, miller and maize on the wide fertile plains on either side. Closely related to the Owambo, the Kavango also originate from the large lakes of East Africa. To day, thousands of young Kavango works as migratory labourers on farms, in mines and in urban centres. An important local industry is woodcarving, Bowls, masks, ornaments, furniture and other functional items are produced for the tourist and other markets.

The Caprivians

Just under 80,000 people live in East Caprivi, which borders on Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. Most Caprivians are linguistically related to the Lozi and Makololo of Barotseland in Zambia. Most Caprivians are subsistence farmers who make their living on the banks of the Zambezi, Kwando, Linyanti and Chobe rivers. Land is cultivated under a system of individual right of occupation as allocated by the people' authorities. Grazing and veldt products are used on a communal basis. In addition to fishing and hunting, a significant but not exclusive element of the local economy, they keep cattle and cultivate the land.

The Topnaars

Only about 400 members of the total 3,000 Topnaars still live in the Namib. The history and culture of this desert nation is closely associated with the Nara melon from whose kernels a very nutritious edible oil can be extracted and it is said to have medicininal properties. Nowadays it is to be attempted by a cultivation of the plant to give a better economic future to the nation of the Topnaars and therefore to preserve also their traditional way of life. To day the Topnaars tend their sheep and goats in the harsh environments. Some members of the community work in Walvis Bay. The Topnaar people have many unique traditions and customs linked to their existence in the Namib.

The Tswana

Numbering approximately 8,000, the Tswana are the smallest cultural group in Namibia. They are allied with their neighbours in Botswana, the Botswana, whose country they gave the name. Most Namibian Tswanas live in the eastern part of the country, where they are involved in farming.

The Rehoboth Basters

The history of the Rehoboth Basters goes back to the settlement of the first Dutch colonists under Jan van Riebeeck, who landed at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. European settlers came into contact with the indigenous Khosan people (Nama). The children born from this association, whose mixed blood origins were obvious, were called "coloureds" or "bastards". In 1868 a group of some 90 Baster families moved to Namibia from the Cape.

Today the Baster community consists of approximately 72,000 people and most of them live in the South of Windhoek. Their home language is Afrikaans and their way of life is similar to that of their Afrikaner forebears. While they are traditionally stock and crop farmers, today many of them are involved in other sections of the community, especially the building trade. A large number of Rehoboth Basters commute to Windhoek on a daily or weekly basis. In the sphere of culture and religion they maintain a Western way of life. It was their wish to keep the name "baster" also in future and they are proud of it.

The Whites

Also after the independence of Namibia, the white population plays furthermore a central role in Namibia's economy. Approximately 100,000 Namibians of European descent (6% of the population) currently live in Namibia, of whom about two-thirds speak Afrikaans, one quarter German and the rest mostly English, and to a lesser extent, Portuguese. Most of them live in the urban, central and southern parts of the country, and most are involved in commerce, manufacturing, farming, professional services and, to a diminishing extent, the civil service. English was selected as Namibia's official language and Afrikaans, the common vernacular language, was retired to a secondary position after serving with German as one of three official languages for some 60 years.

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