Namibia – Cultural Wealth: Herero People

The Herero People of Namibia

The Herero people, it is believed, moved to Namibia from the Eastern African region, to the region around Lake Tanganyika.  According to their oral history they came down from a lush area, with much water and grass, but about 350 years have passed and they have since acclimatised nicely to the dry Namibian environment. 

Today they are a pastoral cattle breeding nation, mostly living in the central and eastern parts of Namibia.  The much celebrated cultural diversity of Namibia is made all the richer by their presence, the Herero are a strong and proud culture and the observance of that culture continues despite the near decimation of the entire Herero population in Namibia’s colonial wars.

One beautiful aspect of Namibian culture is the holy or sacred fire, which is kept burning and where prayers are made or important ceremonies like weddings are held.  The sacred fire also plays an important role in ancestor worship, still a part of Herero culture.  The sacred fire, while not as prevalent as it was before European missionaries arrived in Namibia, remains burning in many rural villages to this day.

Another distinct feature of the Herero culture is the dress of the women, which pays homage to the importance of cattle farming to the Herero people.  Women wear a horn shaped hat made from a rolled cloth, the ‘horns’ stretch out horizontally on either side of the head. 

Otherwise their dress is quite distinctly and interestingly Victorian, a relic that stretches back to the days of German missionaries’ and colonialist’s wives.  The dress consists of crinoline that is worn over petticoats.  These dresses are considered to be the proper dress for married Herero women.

Every year a traditional Herero festival is held, it always falls on the last weekend in August and is held in Okahandja. At this festival para-military groups parade before the chiefs and women line the streets proudly wearing their beautiful bright traditional dresses and hats. The cultural identity is strong and represents a great deal of not only the past of the Herero but also the past of Namibia.

Have you come into contact with other culturally rich people?  If you have, then please share it with us here on the blog.

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