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People of Namibia

Ovambo

Of the 1,8 million Namibians, around 900,000 are Ovambo. Their homeland lies north of the Etosha Pan, with the town of Oshakati as its centre. The Ovambo are a branch of the Bantu people who came here in the 16th century from East Africa. Traditionally, they are farmers and on the relatively fertile soils of the north, grow mainly maize, sorghum, millet, pumpkins, beans and melons. They also have some cattle and goats.

Kavango

About 150,000 Kavangos settle east of the former Ovamboland at the southern banks of the Okavango river. A large part of them came from Angola. The Kavango also live on agriculture and a bit of cattle breeding and fishing. They are excellent wood craftsmen and have a language of their own. Rundu is their centre.

Caprivians

In the very north-east of Namibia live about 50,000 Caprivians. Their centre is Katima Mulilo. Their economy is based on cattle, agriculture and fishing and they have their own language.

Herero

The third-largest group with about 150,000 members, are the Herero people who mainly inhabit central Namibia. The Herero women's wide skirts and colourful headgear - the shape of which reminds one of a cow's horns, can be traced back to the influence of the missionaries' wives who, in the beginning, were upset about the women's sparing traditional dress. The proud, tall and strongly built Herero people are fanatic cattle breeders. Their centre is Okahandja where every year they hold a festival to honour their ancestors.

Himba

Closely related to the Herero are the approximately 5,000 Himba who live in the remote Kaokoland (50,000 square kilometres in size), in the north-west with the town of Opuwo as the centre. The Himba still uphold their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle. They speak a dialect of the Herero language and live exclusively on their herds of cattle.

Nama

The entire south of Namibia has been traditionally inhabited by the Nama people. They are related to the Khoi-khoi and came here from Cape in South Africa. The approximately 80,000 Nama mainly farm with sheep and goats. They speak a Khoisan dialect with various click sounds: very difficult to learn.

Damara

The 90,000 Damara speak a dialect of the Nama language. Their main settlement area stretches from the Erongo to the Etosha Pan with the town of Khorixas as its centre. The majority of them, however, live scattered across the whole of the country. The Damara breed cattle and have mastered the art of forging iron and copper from way back.

San Bushman

The indigenous inhabitants of Namibia are the San People. Indications are that they have lived here for as long as 20,000 years. The number of San People still living in Namibia is estimated at 40,000. They live mainly to the west of Tsumkwe, and are traditionally a nomadic people.

Basters

The 25,000 Rehoboth Basters live exclusively in and around the town of Rehoboth south of Windhoek. They are the decendants of Khoi-khoi women and Afrikaans immigrants from the Cape Colony who left the Cape in 1870 and founded Rehoboth. The Basters speak Afrikaans and still follow many Afrikaner traditions and culture. They predominantly breed cattle and are good artisans.

Whites

About 100,000 whites (officially called Caucasians) live in Namibia. 20% of them are of German, 20% are English and 60% are of Afrikaans extraction.