The Indigenous People of Namibia

The Indigenous People of Namibia

ONE OF THE 46 COUNTRIES IN THE SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA REGION (UN LISTS 54 AFRICAN STATES, THE AFRICA UNION CONTAINS 55), NAMIBIA IS THE LEAST DENSELY POPULATED COUNTRY IN AFRICA.

More than 2000 languages are spoken in Africa, and its 1 billion inhabitants are made up of over 3000 distinct ethnic groups. The African continent covers 30,221,000 sq km (11,679,000 sq miles).

If you combine the USA, China, India, Europe and Japan – they all fit into Africa. In fact the USA fits into the African continent three times!

Namibia is rich in minerals, including uranium, diamonds, copper, gold, lead, and zinc, but weak property rights and poor infrastructure impede growth, and unemployment is a problem. About a third of Namibians depend on subsistence agriculture and herding for their livelihood and the urban population consisting of traders, civil servants, industrialists and individuals in a wide diversity of professions, belonging to many different cultural and ethnic groups. South Africa is its major trading partner and former administering power.

The estimated population as of July 2012 is 2,165,828, with about 50% of the population belong to the Ovambo tribe, 9% to the Kavangos tribe; other ethnic groups include Herero 7%, Damara 7%, Nama 5%, Caprivian 4%, Bushmen 3%, Baster 2%, Tswana 0.5%.

PROFILED HERE ARE TWO OF THE TRIBES:

THE HERERO

 Migrating to Namibia from East Africa in the middle of the 16th century, the Herero are a pastoral cattle-breeding people.

Many Herero women in Namibia wear traditional Victorian-style clothing which was brought to the country by German colonialists over 100 years ago. The hats worn by Herero women represent the horns of cattle. The style of dress continues to be passed down through generations and often is worn as every-day clothing.

Wearing the dresses often symbolizes a woman’s place in the society. It openly broadcasts who they are as a people and the identity of the Herero is created through the dress.

The Herero women take enormous pride in their outfits and have also developed a sideline in making and selling dolls wearing exact replicas of the dresses to tourists.

THE HIMBA (OVAHIMBA)

This ancient tribe of semi-nomadic pastoralists, the Himbas are an extraordinary people who have resisted change and preserved their unique cultural heritage.

The Himba are actually descendants of a group of Herero herders who fled into the remote north-west after been impoverished by Nama cattle raiders in the middle of 1800’s and then forced to become hunter- gatherers.

The Himba have clung to their traditions and the beautiful Himba women are noted for their intricate hairstyles and traditional jewellery.

As Himba men and woman wear few clothes apart from a loin cloth or goat skinned mini-skirt, they rub their bodies with red ochre and fat to protect themselves from the sun and also gives their appearance a rich red colour.

Otjize is a paste of butter, fat and red ochre which Himba women apply each morning to their skin and hair, giving them a distinctive red hue. The sight of traditional Himba women has become an iconic image of Africa.

Cattle are central to the lives of the Himba and the homes of the Himba, who number about 50,000, are round structures constructed of sapling posts, bound together to form a domed roof which is plastered in mud and dung.

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