Saturday, September 10, 2011


The Herero or Ovaherero - were nomadic herdsman who at the time of European contact, lived in Namibia and Botswana. They comprised several subgroups, which include the Himba, Ovatjimba, Mbanderu or Ovambanderu and the Kwandu. Related groups living in Angola include the Kuvale, Zemba, Hakawona, Tjavikwa, Tjimba and Himba. The Herero are thought to have migrated from East Africa into present day Namibia during from the seventeenth century. At some point they came into contact and conflict with another pastoral people known as Nama - Hottentot or Khoi Khoi.

In Namibia Herero's 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 the early migrants 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. Many Herero women dorn the outfits every year on during the traditional Herero festival is held in Okahandja- Maherero day.

According to My Beautiful Namibia Herero women regard the outfits as 'proper dress' for traditional married women. By wearing the long dress, a newly married woman shows her in laws that she is willing to take up the responsibilities of a Herero home and will raise her children to respect their heritage and their father’s family. The long dress is heavy, hard to keep clean and laborious and expensive to make. The outfit has changed over the years to reflect the style of new generations, and sewing it allows women to show their personal skill and creativity. The Herero women’s long dress has become a symbol of Herero tradition for Herero, tourists, scholars and other Namibians. Women are selling dolls wearing exact replicas of the long dress to tourists and crafts organizations. This suggests that they continue to find new ways to express their individual and traditional identities.

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