The Herero People

The Herero people of Namibia are a pastoral cattle breeding nation. it is believed they migrated from the east African lakes arriving in Namibia about 350 years ago. Their initial home was in Kaokoland near the Kunene River, but some 150 years ago a large portion of the Herero population moved southwards leaving the Himba and Tjimba tribes behind.

There are about 100 000 Herero people in Namibia, and today they are mostly found in the central and eastern parts of the country. The Herero can be divided into several sub-groups the biggest of which includes the Tjimba and Ndamuranda groups who live Kaokoland, the Mahereo who are found around Okahandja and the Zeraua who are found in the area around Omaruru. A group called the Mbandero occupy an area in eastern Namibia, around the town of Gobabis, which was formerly known as Hereroland.

Until the colonial period the Herero prospered in the central grassland areas, where there was ample grazing for their cattle, but a succession of battles with the northward migrating Nama, and more severely the German colonial troops led to about 75% of the Herero population been exterminated. Estimates are that of the 80 000 Herero in Namibia in 1900 only about 16 000 remained by 1905. During this period large numbers of Herero fled to the safety of Botswana, but since independence some of these people have begun to return to Namibia.

The Herero are proud cattle farmers who measure their wealth in cattle, the importance of cattle to these people is even evident in the Herero womens' dresses. The traditional dress is derived from a Victorian woman's dress, and consists of an enormous crinoline worn over a several petticoats, a horn shaped hat (said to represent the horns of a cow) made from rolled cloth is also worn.

The traditional Herero festival is held in Okahandja on Maherero day, which falls on the last weekend in August. The various paramilitary groups parade before their chiefs, and Herero women line the streets in their beautiful dresses.

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