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People of Namibia


There are only about 12.000 Himba's but with their traditional clothing, hairstyle and customs, they are probably the most disitinctive of them all. Originally from Eastern Africa they settled in the Kaokoland about 600 years ago, stopping at Opuwo (literally meaning: it's finished in the local language). The harsh and inhospitable area forced them to keep their nomadic lifestyle, farming with their cattle and goats. With very little influence from the outside world they have always lived a very traditional and spritiual life.  A visit to one of the traditional villages is a very rewarding experience as you will get a lot of insight to their culture which is far removed from the Western culture.

Bushmen / San

The San, a small ethnic group numbering about 40,000, are maybe better known as Bushmen. Being hunter-gatherers in the past, they nowadays rely more on the gathering of roots, seeds, nuts and other edible plants than on hunting. They used to  follow the migratory routes of the animals for thousands of years, so they don't have a place they call home nor do they have private possessions, everything  they own is shared. They have a very rich culture, speak the 'click' language and are excellent storytellers. They very uniquely express themselves with lots of dancing and singing. A visit to the Bushmen is highly recommended, they are small people with a big heart!

Namibia is not only a country of stunning scenery, landscapes and wildlife. It also offers a caleidoscope of cultures. It is a sparsely populated country with just over 2 million people living on 824.292km². They are divided into twelve ethnic groups and during your visit you will meet at least a few of these groups, all with their own unqiue culture, dress, way of life and language. There are 28 languages spoken in the country, with English being the official one.


Another very distinctive looking ethnic group are the Herero. The women dress very traditionally in their long dresses and headgear, resembling cow horns. Cows are very important to them. They traditionally were great cattlefarmers, but at the beginning of the 20th century they

took big blows during the brutal colonial wars of Namibia. They were forced into the arid Kalahari Desert where many lives were lost as well as many herds of cattle. With a lot of resilience the remaning Herero carried on and these days their livestock is one of the best of the country.

Other groups

Other ethnic groups include the Nama. Orginally a nomadic group, the thirteen tribes left now live scattered over the country. The Nama women are very talented craftswomen and known for their embroiderie and applicationwork.

The Owambo is by far the largest group, they represent  almost half of the population. They live mainly in the North and are active in most economical sectors like agriculture, fishery and trade. They are very succesull entrepreneurs and traders.

The ancestors of the current Baster population were the first Dutch and other European men that married native born Khoisan women. The Rehoboth Basters are descendants of the Basters and they carry the name "Basters" proudly. They are very patriotic and protective of their cultural heritage.  They work mostly in farming, trading and crafts.

The Coloureds originate in South Africa where European men married with Khoisan women as well as with the female descendants of Asian slave labourers. They were  often not accepted by any other group during Apartheid years. They are very similar to the Rehoboth Basters.

The Caprivians in the north East live mainly near the rivers and main roads. Besides farming and fishing they do well in agriculture. Many of the men work in the mines in Johannesburg. Their isolation and remoteness is accountable for the traditional ways of life.

The Kavango are often describes as the friendliest people in Namibia. They live largely along the Kavango river, with agriculture and fishery as their livelihood. The Kavango men are famous woodcarvers,, carving drums and other musical instruments, masks, canoes and household items. The women are skilled weavers.

The Tswanas are the smallest cultural group. Most of them are farmers and live in the Gobabis Area near the Botswana border and in the Caprivi.

The Damara are one of the oldest cultural groups living mainly in the North West of the country. Their roots are not certain and they have lost a lot of their traditions.

A small percentage 6.4% of the population are Whites, mainly of Portuguese, Dutch, German, British and French ancestry. After the initial explorers, the first missionaries arrived in 1806. Around 1900 soldiers from Germany and South Africa were brought in to fight in the Nama-Herero war. When diamonds were discovered more Europeans arrived in the country as well as when South Africa got the mandate over South Western Africa, Engineers, architect, scientist, teachers etc were needed for the many businesses that arose, most of them were Europeans.

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