Fast facts: The Herero of Namibia

The world can’t seem to get enough of the Herero fashion, thanks to the launch of the book by photographer Jim Naughten, “Conflict and Costume”. But it's not just their clothing that makes them fascinating. Here are some interesting facts about the Herero culture and how you can encounter them on your next trip in Namibia.

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A Herero woman outside her home in Mondesa Township 

Fast Facts

  • Language: Otjiherero (Bantu language) 

  • Population: over 130,000 Herero-speaking Namibians

  • Factions: The Herero propers with the traditional chiefdoms of Maharer (Okahandja), Zeraua (Omaruru) and Kambazembi (Waterberg); The Ndamuranda; The Tjimba Herero of Kaokoland; The Mabanderu in eastern Namibia; Other smaller factions in northern Kunene and south-western Angola

  • The Herero are a pastoral cattle-breeding people

  • In the German Herero War of 1904-1907, the entire Herero population was almost decimated. But with great resiliency, the Herero persevered and today rank among Namibia’s best cattle farmers and businessmen. 

Cultures and Beliefs

  • It is believed they formerly lived in a country with water and reeds, known as Roruu, however no one has succeeded in tracing this legendary African marshland...

  • The Herero follow two religions - Christianity and their traditional "Holy Fire" (ancestral fire through which they communicate with their ancestors)

  • A person’s status in the family hierarchy, the place of abode, and traditions, are determined by the paternal line, oruzo. But control and distribution of all movable propert is determined by the maternal line, eanda.

  • They are polygamous, although the first wife is allowed to choose subsequent wives!

  • The holy cattle (ozohivirikwa) are the inspiration behind the women’s headdress, its two points symbolising cattle horns.

Where to encounter the Herero in Namibia

  • Take a walk through Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia, and you are sure to see them about their daily tasks – with many of them adorned in their traditional garments, they’ll be hard to miss.

  • Take a tour of Mondesa township, outside Swkaopmund, with Hata Angu Cultural Tours

  • Visit Okahandja on the annual Herero Festival on Maharero Day. It takes place every year on the Sunday closest to August 23, the day on which Herero chief Samuel Maharero's body was returned to Okahandja in 1923. Various units of paramilitary organisations parade before their leaders in full dress through the streets. 


Some useful links

  • Namibia is home to a host of different people and cultures. Find out more about them here.

  • In case you missed all the buzz about Jim Naughten’s book “Conflict and Costume”, you can read about it on The Guardian Newspaper, Time Magazine and Slate Magazine.

  • Take note of these handy tips for photographing local cultures in Namibia.



Some of these facts have been sourced from Namibia Holiday & Travel. Download the iPhone and iPad app for free. Or contact Travel News Namibia to purchase a hard copy. 

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