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The Owambo People

an overview of Namibia's population

The Owambo is by far the largest population group in Namibia, comprising about one third of the countries total population. Owabo is a collective name for twelve tribal groups that live in northern Namibia and southern Angola. The largest of these tribes is the Kwanyama which make up about 35% of the 700 000 Owambo who live in Namibia. The next largest groups are the Ndonga and Kwambi which respectively comprise 30% and 12% of Namibia's Owambo population. While the Ngandyela, Mbalanhu, Nkolonkadhi and Unda complete the 8 Owambo tribal groups found in Namibia.

The home of the Owambo people was once called Owamboland but is today divided into the Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto regions. These regions are now often referred to as the 4 'O' regions.

Traditionally each of the tribal groups was headed by a hereditary chief, who is assisted by several headman. Land is allocated by the chief or headman, land is never owned and upon the death of a tenant the appropriate chief will allocate the land to a new tenant. The new tenant will not necessarily be related to the deceased.

In rural areas each Owambo family lives in its own kraal or eumbo, which is enclosed by a wooden fence. The houses are situated inside this fence and can be either round or square thatched huts, outside of the fence are the families lands. In the centre of the kraal is the family sacred fire (omulilo gwoshilongo) which is kept burning at all times. The Nakambale Museum and Traditional village present an excellent way to experience an Owambo kraal.

The Owambo practice both agriculture (mahango or millet) and cattle farming and this is supplemented by fish from the shallow pools (oshanas) which characterise the region. Another source of income for may Owambo's is the cuca shops (small bars) and large food markets.

Traditionally the Owambo has practised a matrilineal system especially in matters of inheritance and succesion, however in recent years the system has shifted towards a patrilieal society.

The people and population of Namibia

  • Owambo: King Taapopi
  • Owambo: Children
  • Owambo: Kids Fishing
  • Owambo: Making A Basket
  • Owambo: Strong Woman
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Ongula Village Homestead Lodge

A traditional Owambo homestead which offers a unique opportunity of interacting with the local community while getting involved in local activities such as cattle herding and basket making.

Ruacana Eha Lodge

Situated at the Ruacana falls on the Namibia / Angola border - this lodge serves as a gateway between Kaokoland and Owamboland

Uukwaluhdi Safari Lodge

North of Etosha, east of Osahakati & west of Opuwo this remote lodge is situated on the vast plains of the Omusati Region. Attractions here include tracking Black Rhino.

Accommodation in Swakopmund

Accommodation in Namibia