The Culture Of Namibia

Traditional huts of the Himba people in Namibia.
Traditional huts of the Himba people in Namibia.

The southern African nation of Namibia shares its land borders with South Africa, Botswana, Angola, and Zambia. It has a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean to the west. With deserts covering large parts of its landscape, Namibia’s culture reflects the influence of life in the desert. For a period in its history, Namibia served as a German colony. 

The Ethnic Groups In Namibia

About 50% of Namibia’s population is represented by the members of the Ovambo tribe. The Kavango, Herero, Damara, Nama, Caprivian, San, Baster, and Tswana peoples comprise 9%, 7%, 7%, 5%, 4%, 3%, 2%, and 0.5% of the population, respectively. The culture of Namibia is an amalgamation of the cultures of these ethnic groups.

Religion Of Namibians

The vast majority of Namibians (about 80 to 90%) are Christians. Lutheranism is the predominant Christian denomination in the country. About 50% of the population is affiliated to the Lutheran Church. Christian festivals are celebrated throughout the country. Two tribal groups living in Namibia, the San and the Himba, practice their traditional beliefs while a section of the Christian population also incorporates traditional rituals and customs in their religious life. The indigenous religions are based on animistic beliefs where natural objects and phenomena are associated with supernatural powers.

Namibian Cuisine

The cuisine of Namibia is influenced by both the cookery practiced by the indigenous inhabitants and that introduced by the Europeans who colonized the country in the past. Millet, sorghum, melons, peanuts, beef, mutton, and dairy products are the subsistence food products in Namibia. Mealie is the staple diet of the people. Prior to colonization, the cuisine of Namibia used a wide range of plant products gathered from wild plants and meat obtained by the hunting of wild animals. Livestock breeding began in Namibia about 2000 years back. That made meat and milk easily available. When German colonists settled in Namibia in the 19th century, German dishes were introduced in the country. Dishes like Wiener schnitzel and the German brewing tradition are quite popular in Namibia today.

Literature And Graphic Arts In Namibia

Namibia has a relatively small literary community. Oral literature in the form of folk tales and legends is more well-established than written literature. Published literature in the form of poetry and prose are primarily in the Afrikaans and English languages.

Products of indigenous art and craft are popular among the tourists visiting Namibia. Wood carvings of the Kavango people and the basketry skills of the Owambo people are most noticeable.

Performance Arts In Namibia

The different ethnic groups living in Namibia have their distinct music and dance forms. With modernization, many of these performing art forms are at threat of being lost. There is therefore a need to promote them. The National Theatre of Namibia is an important venue in the country that hosts stage music shows and dramas. Local and national festivals in the country also serve as a platform to showcase the traditional dance and music of the country.

Life In A Namibian Society

Gender roles are generally well-defined in Namibia. Men are expected to build and maintain homes, work in the field, tend to the livestock, plow fields, etc. Women do the household work, tend to the children, prepare food, and also provide agricultural labor. Polygyny that was a common practice in the past among most of the ethnic groups, is now strictly forbidden by law.

Although women in modern Namibia are moving forward, the incidence of domestic violence and rape in the country is still extremely high. The discriminatory beliefs and laws in the country are changing, albeit slowly.

Weddings are extremely important social events and are attended by family and friends of the bride and groom. Most wedding ceremonies are a blend of Christian and indigenous elements.

The Namibians, especially those living in rural areas, reside as large family units, often with more than two generations living together under the same roof.

Namibians consider it very important to properly greet each other. Public displays of affection and emotion are frowned upon.

Cattle play an important role in the life of a Namibian, especially those living in rural areas. Payment in cattle is often made by the groom to the bride’s family before the marriage approval is granted.

Sports In Namibia

Soccer is highly popular in Namibia. Most children grow up playing the game. Track and field is also a popular sport in the country. Many Namibians run daily chores that demand great physical efforts. Children in rural areas walk or run for long distances daily to reach school.


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