Heritage and History

Bismarck proclaimed Namibia a German protectorate in 1884. The conquest of German South West Africa by South African forces during World War I resulted in its subsequent administration by South Africa under a 1920 ‘League of Nations’ mandate. A war between the occupying South African forces and the SWAPO (South-west Africa People's Organisation) liberation movement started in 1966. In 1989, the implementation of United Nations Resolution 435 for free and fair elections resulted in SWAPO coming to power. On March 21, 1990, Dr. Sam Nujoma was instated as the country's first president. Today Namibia is ruled by a Multiparty Parliament and has a democratic Constitution that is highly regarded by the international community. The Government's policy of national reconciliation and unity embraces the concepts of tolerance, respect for differing political views, and racial and ethnic harmony. Government type: republic, secular state, freedom of religion and press. To date, Namibia boasts a proud record of uninterrupted peace and stability.

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Namibia’s people

Baster People

It is believed that as early as 1652, the year of Jan van Riebeeck’s landing at the Cape in South Africa, this race came into being. The term “Baster” is the preferred term and used with pride by the Baster Community. They adopted the language and culture of their forefathers which included the observance of Christian beliefs and are very protective of their cultural heritage. In 1868, drought and discrimination forced the Basters to move north across the Orange River into Namibia where they eventually, in 1870, reached Rehoboth, south of Windhoek. Today, many Basters work in Windhoek, commuting 180kms daily in passenger cars, vans and small buses. Artisans, such as bricklayers, carpenters, etc. have built many a Windhoek building, while numerous sales and administration positions are filled, some Basters are also involved in stock farming.

Kavango People

This large nation of riverside people has often been described as one of the friendliest in Africa. The Kavango people comprise five distinct tribal groups, of whom nearly all live along the Kavango River from Katwitwe in the west to Bagani in the east. A small number of the Kavango people live in the major drainage area in the south of the Kavango, while some are temporary residents alongside the main road between Grootfontein and Rundu, where many hand-made goods are offered for sale.

Caprivi People

The population of the Caprivi is estimated to be a little under 100,000. There are two main tribal groups, the Fwe in the west and the Subia in the east. The oldest male is the head of each village and will have assumed the position by descent and groups of villages (wards) are headed up by a senior Headman who is elected. In addition to hunting and fishing, the Caprivians till the soil, planting maize, millet, beans, sweet potatoes, groundnuts, pumpkins, melons and also sugar cane. They are also gatherers and pastoralists, with well structured usage of the communal grazing areas. Their isolation and remoteness have been responsible for their continued dependence on this traditional subsistence economy.

Caucasian

The first European descendant to take up permanent residence in Namibia is believed to have been Guilliam Visagie, who with his wife had settled at a place called Modderfontein, today known as Keetmanshoop. A number of explorers, ivory and big game hunters, travelled up from the Cape in South Africa and the first missionaries, Abraham and Christian Albrecht, arrived at Warmbad in 1806. As more and more information about the country reached the outside world, so the numbers of adventurers, prospectors, traders and explorers increased. Diamonds were discovered and more Europeans arrived. After the First World War, farms and various other properties were bought by new settlers and the number of European residents grew steadily.

Damara 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. They have no cultural relationship with any of the other tribes anywhere else in Africa and no longer possess their traditions of origin, nor former linguistic and cultural affiliations.

In earlier times in Namibia, the Damara people are believed to have been hunter-gatherers, thereafter dominated by and working for the Nama and the Herero. The development of tourism since 1990 has drawn many Damaras into related activities such as tour guiding and nature conservation. The Damaraland region is well known for its minerals and semi-precious stones and many Damara have turned to small-scale mining, selling their stones along the roads leading into and out of their settlements.

Tswana People

The Tswana people are associated with the country of Botswana, whose name means "Land of the Tswana". Most of Botswana is desert, including the great Kalahari. A few thousand Tswana also live in the neighbouring area of Namibia and Zimbabwe. About 60% of the Tswana profess Christianity, but only about 18% are practicing Christians, of which women outnumber men at least 2:1. Traditional Tswana society included men, women, children and "badimo" (ancestors, living dead, having metaphysical powers). A Tswana does not think in terms of individual rights, but of responsibilities to his family and tribe.

Herero People

The Herero nation moved south into Namibia, it is thought, during the 16th century. During the last ten to fifteen years of the 19th century conflict between the Herero and the Nama caused major problems for both groups and both sides suffered casualties and cattle thieving. This resulted in the German government sending the Schutztruppe (“Protective Force”) to Namibia to quell the conflicts. All land utilised by the Herero was confiscated by the authorities and in 1920 a number of reserves: Ovitoto, Epukiro, Waterberg-East, Aminuis and Otjituuo were created by the SWA Administration, for exclusive use by the surviving few thousands of Herero.

Himba (Ovahimba) People

In 1978 during a visit to one of the Himba villages in Kaokoland by a group of international journalists, one of them remarked, “Look at how uncivilized and backward these people are. It’s shocking!” His remark was translated from English into Herero. One of the Himba present, after a short exchange between himself and the interpreter responded in fluent Afrikaans, “Our life is good. We have no fighting, no crime, no hunger, and no hatred. We are satisfied. Do you live as well in your land?” The Himba indeed have the appearance of having been forgotten by the rest of the world but this is only as a result of their extreme isolation and conservative way of life.

Many of the younger generation have accepted some changes and are being educated in the Namibian national system, and will in time, abandon many of their older customs and traditions. However, most of the older generation still cling to their traditions and when their children return from school or visits to town, strongly encourage them to dress or undress, according to traditional style, and to live like a true Himba.

Bushman / San

The San, a small ethnic group, numbering about 40,000, are more commonly known as Bushmen and comprise of one larger and four smaller groups. The Bushmen are well proportioned, and have lean and delicate limbs - ideal physical features for endurance running. The Bushmen rely more on the gathering of roots, seeds, nuts and other edible plants than on hunting. They often go without meat for lengthy periods but cannot survive for long without foraging for veld food, as this is also a source of water for them. The Bushman is the only ethnic group in Namibia which has no traditional area which they call ‘home’. For perhaps thousand of years they have followed the migratory routes of the animals they hunted although these activities curtailed with the agricultural developments that took place.

Nama People

Previously there was differentiation between the local Khoi peoples and those who moved into Namibia from South Africa. Today, however, both are referred to as Nama. There are fifteen Nama tribes in Namibia most of which are well proportioned and of slender build. At Vaalgras, when Herero prisoners-of-war were released at the end of the hostilities in the early 1900’s, they stayed in the area and mingled with the local Nama. Today they live like the Nama and speak the Nama language.

Owambo People

The population of the Owambo People, estimated at between 700,000 and 750,000 fluctuates remarkably. This is because of the indiscriminate border drawn up by the Portuguese and Germans during colonial rule, which results in regular cross-border movement. There are eight main tribes each with its own dialect but there are only two written languages. The Owambo are agriculturists and cattle breeders, however, many men seek employment on mines, farms and in factories and commercial enterprises. Exposure to the business environments created by the Europeans triggered an astonishing development of entrepreneurial activity amongst them and trading in goods is feverishly practiced. So keenly did they take up the challenge and so effectively did they manage enterprises that they were thought to be the lost tribe of the Israelites. There are very few families today which are not involved in some form of retailing activity. The social and cultural evolution which has taken place over the past thirty years has changed much of the traditional way of life and many of the typical homesteads have made way for more modern suburbs and villages, and the agricultural and cattle herding activities moving away to the rural areas. However, many traditional villages exist and demonstrate the orderliness of their social structure.