There’s a new Arts & Crafts Centre in the holiday town of Swakopmund and it’s 100% Namibian. On the surface, it is a fantastic venue for locals and tourists to soak up Namibian art and enjoy something to eat and drink at the new Yambeke restaurant. But at its heart lies a grander ambition: the training and uplifting of local artists. Namibian people have a vibrant, diversified culture, which this Centre wants to promote and develop.
The Centre provides a fantastic venue for open-air events – keep an eye out for the latest happenings on the COSDEF Arts & Crafts Facebook page.
The Centre is a project of COSDEF (Namibia Community Skills Development Foundation); a non-profit organization that provides disadvantaged communities, unemployed youth, and vulnerable people the opportunity to learn skills to earn an income. The Swakopmund Centre helps the community to develop the skills needed to be self-sustainable by providing an outlet for products and artisans as well as training and mentorship programs (these programs include business and design skills).
The Centre offers a host of different artistic courses ranging from an Introduction to Fine Arts, to Jewellery and Fashion design. The Centre has its very own craft shop and Gallery that show cases 100% Namibian craft sourced from all over the country.
It also provides a space for small retail shops where local business men and women have the opportunity to both produce and sell their goods - jewellery, knitting, t-shirt printing, textiles, photography, art work and local food. You’ll also find some well-known local artisans at the Centre - Karakulia Weavers, Desert Hills’ Nara products and Kubatsirana Helping Hands.
The Arts & Crafts Centre also has a beautiful Amphitheatre and stage, a conference hall and an art gallery which you can rent for events.
The new Yambeke Restaurant inside the Centre provides the perfect spot for lunch with local flavour. They also serve daily specials that can be pre-ordered to take home for dinner.
Soak up the creative atmosphere as you munch some brunch at the Yambeke Restaurant.
Some events to watch out for:
African Dance & Drumming classes; two classes during the week during business hours and certain Saturdays (from 3 March 2015)
Easter market with egg hunting for the kids and a performance by a local African group (4 April 2015)
Monthly themed film showcases (dates TBA)
Art exhibitions (dates TBA)
Saturday Kiddies activities (dates TBA)
Follow COSDEF Arts & Crafts Facebook page to stay up to date with the latest events and dates.
Shops & Yambeke Restaurant: Weekdays 9am – 5pm & Saturdays 9 – 4pm.
Look out for the brightly coloured Centre on the Swakopmund Airport Road.
The Centre’s many different stalls showcasing Namibian art and providing budding artists with a platform for success.
Locals are trained in many artistic forms to improve their skills and livelihoods.
Take a browse through the art gallery to discover truly Namibian talent.
Pick up some 100% Namibian crafts and support the local community!
All images courtesy of COSDEF.
MCA-Namibia (Millennium Challenge Account) helped to develop and fund the Centre’s building and equipment. MCA strives for economic improvement through infrastructure development, capacity building and vocational training to provide greater opportunity for economic growth and livelihood improvement.
Namibia has a varied collection of different cultures that live within its borders, and this is a large part of the reason why Namibia is such an incredibly interesting place to visit. From urban centers to national parks the people of Namibia are as varied as its landscapes.
So to celebrate the cultural heritage of all Namibians the National Heritage Council Namibia holds an annual Heritage Week across Namibia to showcase the different cultures that can be found in Namibia. Heritage Week is from the 16th to the 22nd of September 2013 and we're going to explain what that means to you, whether you are a local or just visiting this exciting country.
The San people, one of the oldest communities on earth
The theme for this year’s Heritage Week is ‘Heritage: Namibia’s Knowledge Bank’. The theme is in reference to the continuingly positive influence remembering one’s heritage has on a community or an individual. In Namibia, heritage is how we came to be who we are and is therefore one of the most important things for us to remember.
In order to share the different strands of culture that make up the tapestry of Namibia, the National Heritage Council of Namibia has set aside next week (16-22 of September) to promote museums, art galleries and heritage institutions across the country.
We have collected all the information you will need to take part in the celebrations happening around the country. So whether you are a local looking to reconnect with your roots, or a visitor looking for a meaningful cultural experience, have a look below and see if you can get yourself to any of the following events.
Heritage Week Program of Events
City of Windhoek
The City of Windhoek will be organizing a `Walk for Culture’ on Saturday, 21 September to mark the start of the /Ae//Gams Festival. If you would like to take part please gather at 08:30am (the walk will start at 09.00) next to the new City of Windhoek Museum on Robert Mugabe Avenue. The walkers will visit a number of important heritage sites and encounter cultural performances along the route which will end in Zoo Park.
For more information please contact: Mariah Hamata, Tel: +26461–290-2588, E-mail: email@example.com
Namibia Wildlife Resorts
A range of Namibian Heritage Week specials are on offer across NWR’s camps and lodges. Bookings must be made in advance and will include free entry to the Park. Take this special opportunity to enjoy Namibia’s outstanding beauty.
For more information contact: the NWR on +26461-285-7200.
At the Franco-Namibian Centre there will be an exhibition titled ‘What We See’. The exhibition will be open to the public throughout the week (09.00 – 18.00). The exhibition focuses on the racial documentation project that collected the sound recordings and body casts made of people in the 1930s.
For more information contact: Ruth on +26461-387-330.
Gobabeb Desert Research Foundation
The Foundation will be holding a special Open Day will take place on Sunday, 22nd September to celebrate the declaration of the Namib Sand Sea as Namibia’s Second World Heritage Site. UNESCO recognizes the outstanding importance of this site so come and help us celebrate and appreciate the Namib Sand Sea.
For more information contact: Esther Uushona on +264-694-199.
Guided Tours and animal quiz for all local grade 7 groups - by appointment.
For more information contact: The Grootfontein Museum @ Tel +264-67-242-456
Helvi Mpingane Kondombolo Cultural Village and Tsumeb Museum
The Cultural Village will provide free entry to Namibians throughout the week. Guided tours for school groups will take place on Wednesday and Friday at the Tsumeb Museum. The main celebration involving performances by cultural groups will take place on Friday, 20th September. On Saturday 21st September there will be a craft market where visitors will be able to purchase unique Namibian crafts and dine on traditional foods.
For more information contact: Lemmy Geingob, at +264-6722-1056 or +264-81-146-0011,
The museum will host a three-day programme of activities with demonstrations of local crafts and cultural performances involving local schools.
For more information please contact: Ms Valerie Kleintjies on +264-63-221-256.
Munyondo gwaKapande Cultural Village
A programme of activities will be taking place throughout the week at the village. Including a competition for schools on local culture, traditions, and drum-making and playing.
For more information please contact: Mr. Mukuwe +264-81-218-0213, Mr. Pessa +264-81-248-5508/ +264-81-601-6012
A group of skilled local craft-workers will be based at the museum throughout the week. Visitors will be able to learn and observe traditional skills such as basket weaving, pottery making and how to make oil from marula fruit.
For more information please contact: Ms Magdalena Kanaante on +264-65-240-472 or +264-81-249-3108.
National Archives of Namibia and National Library of Namibia
An exhibition that provides archival materials and literature pieces showing the importance of the traditional knowledge of Namibians.
For more information please contact: Mr Werner Hillebrecht on +264-61-293-5211.
National Art Gallery of Namibia
On Saturday 21 September the Gallery will host a panel discussion about ‘Namibian Art’ from 11am to 13.30 with light refreshments included. This is your chance to meet local artists and learn more about the richness and diversity of Namibia artworks.
For more information please contact: Ms Selma Kaulinge @ +264-61-231-160.
National Earth Science Museum
There will be a varied programme of events at the museum throughout the week including screenings of a film on Copper Smelting by the Kwanyama. There will be daily tours from 10:00 in the morning, with a daily treasure hunt for kids from 09:00 to 09:40.
For more information please contact: Ms Helke Mocke at +264-284-8391 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
National Heritage Council
Namibians can enjoy free entry to the Council’s major sites, such as Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site, Heroes Acre and Lake Otjikoto.
For more information please contact: Ms Beverley van Wyk on +264-61-244-375.
National Museum of Namibia
The specialized curators at the museum will be providing unique `backstage’ tours of their collections and are inviting school groups to participate in these tours throughout the week.
For more information please contact: Benson on +264-61-276-817
Ombalantu Baobab Tree Heritage Centre
A programme of activities throughout the week at the centre will include performances by local cultural groups and storytellers throughout the week for visiting groups from local schools.
For more information please contact: Mr Gebhard Shiimbi on +264-81-438-4705
Guided tours of the museum for local school groups throughout the week.
For more information contact: Engela at the Museum on +264-64-402-046
Uukwaluudhi Royal Homestead, Tsandi.
At this homestead, local schools will be participating in a programme of activities and competitions to learn about local culture and heritage.
For more information please contact: Joel Nekwaya on +264-81-285-3249 or Ms Hilda Lita on +264-65-258-025.
University of Namibia: History Society.
The society will mount an exhibition in the foyer of the library and will have a programme of consciousness-raising events for students at the campus on 18th and 19th September. The society is also going to be holding a `Walk for Culture’. Activities will include a cultural performance, a heritage tour, and a quiz on Namibian Heritage for students (with prizes). The event will be held at UNAM Olupale Square on the 18th September 2013 from 10h00 to 14h00.
For more information please contact: Bethel +264-81-871-2057, E-mail email@example.com.
Walvis Bay Museum
Activities will take place during the week aimed primarily at local schools. Members of the Topnaar community will be on hand to introduce learners to their cultural traditions. There will also be a demonstration of the ways in which the !Nara melon plays an important role in the communities of this part of Namibia.
For more information please contact: Ms Antoinette Mostert on +264-64-201-3273 or email the museum on firstname.lastname@example.org
On August the 26th 1966 the first shots were fired in Namibia’s war for independence at the battle of Omugulugwombashe in Namibia's central Northern region. It would take 23 years for Namibia to achieve independence but it is these first acts of armed resistance that are being commemorated on Monday 26th August. Heroes’ Day is celebrated every year in Namibia in an effort to never forget the sacrifices and efforts of all the proud Namibians who fought for freedom and self-determination.
The Unknown Soldier at Heroes' Acre
These days the holiday is used to foster national pride and to stress the importance of togetherness in Namibia. Namibia has several diverse cultures living within its borders and presidents often use the 26th of August to remind everyone in Namibia, and the world at large, just how remarkable and peacefully all the different cultures in Namibia co-exist.
Three Himba children laughing
(image courtesy of Nigel Pavitt)
Namibia’s Heroes’ Day is a time for all Namibians to reflect on how far the country has come since attaining its independence from South Africa in 1990. Rather than focussing on the lives lost needlessly in a justified struggle for independence from a white minority government, Namibia focuses on the positive aspects of its post-independence reality. In recent years the spotlight has been put on to current citizens’ Namibian hero. This typifies the Namibian spirit of endeavour and a national psyche of reconciliation with a view to the future instead of dwelling on the past.
The Heroes’ Acre just outside Windhoek is a monument to the fallen soldiers and citizens of Namibia. The monument aims to honour the lives of those Namibians who may have otherwise been forgotten through the passage of time. There is a statue of the unknown soldier and seating for about 50 000 people for when events are held in its amphitheatre.
A flame burns in memorium for those who have been lost
A tourist makes his way to the Unknown Soldier
Heroes' Acre seen from its paved square
Heroes' Day 2013
This year the annual celebrations will be held in the Omusati region where the war for independence began in 1966. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has predicted that over 50 000 people will attend the ceremonies being held. This year the highlight of the ceremony will include the unveiling of a new statue of Dr Sam Nujoma to celebrate the ex-president’s integral role in fighting for Namibia’s independence.
Founding President Sam Nujoma (left) greeting the late Colonel John Otto
Nankudhu during the 2009 Heroes’ Day commemoration
(image courtesy of the Namibian Sun)
The planned ceremony will also celebrate the role of everyday Namibian heroes and heroines who all contribute to making Namibia the wonderful, peaceful and harmonious country it is. Men and women such as Cgunta Khao//Khao who at great personal risk helped to save a tourist form a bushfire in 2012.
Cgunta: A true Namibian hero recovering from his burns in hospital
(image courtesy of the N/a'an ku sê Foundation)
Namibians across the political, social and economic spectrum are expected to honour the day. There are even groups in the United Kingdom that will be holding events for Namibian ex-pats looking to honour the spirit of their country. So if you are a homesick ex-pat reading this blog then take a moment this Monday to remember just exactly what make Namibia and its people so unique and wonderful.
The Heroes' Acre monument stands proud against a bright blue Namibian sky
For many visitors to Namibia, its vast desert landscape is the subject of striking photos, a backdrop for wildlife watching, a giant playground for off-roading, sandboarding and trekking. But for those who have lived here for centuries, the desert is their larder, their hardware store, their pharmacy… and even their cosmetics counter.
Strewn throughout the arid terrain are valuable plants which produce scented resins, moisturising oils and soothing balms. Himba women – widely regarded for their beauty and incredible hairstyles and body adornments – favour a myrrh resin from the commiphora plant, which they call omumbiri. The resin is gathered during the dry season, mixed with red ochre and animal fat, and stored in small containers made of cow horn. The women rub this paste into their bodies, giving them their characteristic red skin, and the rich, warm aroma of myrrh.
The Himba women stain their skin with the red paste, scented with myrrh, Photo by Mikael Castro
But now the secrets of the Himba perfume are being shared with the world. The Namibian Essential Oil Challenge competition was launched in order to encourage Namibians to create cosmetic products from omumbiri. Working with communities including the Himba, who know how to harvest the resin sustainably, the innovative participants produced an enormous range of products just from this one essential oil, including lip balm, soap, body scrubs, skin oils, body butters, incense and air fresheners.
In order to bring these delicious smelling products to a wider audience, a small factory has been opened in Opuwo, Kunene, to extract the myrrh oil. A visitor’s centre is also under construction, which will educate visitors about the harvesting and extraction process and offer a tour of the factory. There will also be a shop selling cosmetics, oils, incense and soaps produced by Namibian artisans.
A Himba woman grinds ochre to make the traditional perfumed red paste, Photo by Mikael Castro
The project continues to monitor the harvesting process to ensure that it is being carried out sustainably and that the plants are not being over-exploited. At the same time, the income supports local communities who have little other means of income generation, and encourages them to manage their natural resources and environment so that harvesting can continue into the future.
More cosmetics to sample in Namibia
!Nara seed oil: The !Nara melon is harvested as a valuable food source by the Topnaar people living along the Kuiseb River. The seeds of the melon are pressed to extract the rich oils – which have been used for centuries by these desert-dwellers to protect their skin against the harsh, arid climate. !Nara oil is now available in various products such as soaps, creams and skin peels – so you too can benefit from the ancient moisturising secrets of the Topnaars!
- Baobab oil: This characteristic African tree is more than just a pretty sight – the oil extracted from its seeds is rich in vitamins and extremely moisturising. It is also used to treat mild skin complaints, and some women in Africa may use it to treat their hair.
!Nara seed oil products on sale in Swakopmund
The competition was organized with financial support from the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA-Namibia) and the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich.
The winning products – Sophia Snyman’s “Desert Secret” and Tamarind Nott’s - ‘Rare Scent” will be handed out to delegates during the 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit, held in October in Namibia.
Shop for Namibian essential oil and resin products in Windhoek’s Craft Centre and Maerua Mall, and Swakopmund’s Kubatsirana Arts and Crafts Shop.
A couple of World Nomads are on their virgin African adventure here in Namibia. Fresh off the plane from Iceland and India, they chose Namibia as their third and final destination for a series of documentaries focusing on the real people and stories behind top travel destinations.
In Namibia, we're all for adventure tourism - getting travellers to experience life in Namibia and to interact with locals, rather than just being a passive observer. Maybe it's because we have so many different cultures here, or because there aren't that many people for such a big country. Either way, we're always happy to welcome travellers.
“The people have been fantastic. Everyone we’ve met has just been so friendly and welcoming, not to mention really interesting to talk to.”
Here are some photos of the World Nomads team battling the dunes in Swakopmund and getting to know some of the locals in Mondesa township. Next on the agenda is a trip up north to meet the Himba and a wonder through Windhoek to find some of the more interesting and lesser-known characters who've made the capital their home.
Click the video below to watch Sussan's sandboarding wipeout (!)
Desert as far as the eye can see, with fog hanging over the horizon for dramatic effect
Sussan giggles nervously as Nico prepares her for speeding down a super steep dune face
Mamma producer begins to wonder if this classifies as work, as the sandboarding pros get a rhythm work-out going
A local Herero woman in Mondesa talks about the trials and tribulations of township life
It doesn't matter where you are in the world, it's easy to spot the teenager's bedroom...
Outside a pre-pay water pump in the informal settlements
The home of the local healer, who spoke about how traditional practices and modern medicine co-exist
Sussan gets serenaded by local township "a cappella boyband" Vocal Galore
At the end of the day, what more could you ask for but an ice cold Windhoek beer at the local shebeen, to soak in all the stories told and people met along the way
In this weekly EXTREME NAMIBIA blog series we explore some of our country's extremes, and share with you practical information on how you can come and discover them for yourself.
Are you one of those people who like to pick up a bit of the local lingo when you travel? Do you pack a phrasebook and attempt to order your lunch in the native language? Do you like to greet people on the street? Well, in Namibia that might be a little harder than you think...
Namibia's San, Damara and Nama people speak what are recognised as some of the world's most ancient and complicated languages. Even the linguistically blessed are likely to struggle getting their mouths around these words - as not only are they unrelated to other languages outside southern Africa - they involve speaking with clicks! Here's a mini guide to help you out with some of the world's most complex phonetics.
A Quick Guide to Namibia's Click Languages
Namibia's Damara and Nama people speak Khoekhoe, while the San, also known as the Bushmen, speak various related languages, depending on the tribe. Khoekhoe has four click sounds, written |, ǂ, ! and ||, but even speakers of this language are baffled by the San - who use at least seven clicks! Even worse, getting your clicks mixed up spells trouble, as the same word with a different click has a completely different meaning.
hara = swallow
!hara = check out
|hara = dangle
ǂhara = repulse
Yikes! Fortunately for visitors, English is Namibia's official language so you won't have to master the world's most complex tongue! However, if you are up for a bit of a challenge, we've found some tutorials that might help you, or at least give you a bit of an insight into what Namibia sounds like:
Learn how to write and pronounce the Khoekhoe clicks:
Count to ten in Khoekhoe:
Listen to the San:
Facts about click languages and their speakers:
In Namibia, there are around 100,000 Damara, 60,000 Nama and 27,000 San, so you are sure to hear their languages on your travels!
- It was suggested that the clicks developed as a way for hunters to communicate across the savannah - when spoken quietly the clicks sound less like speech and more like a broken branch, whih is less likely to disturb prey.
The languages are considered so complex because the clicking sounds are made at the same time as the consonant sounds, so you have to train your mouth to do two things at once!
Khoekhoe is a national language in Namibia. Many schools use it, and some universities teach in Khoekhoe.
Meet the Damara and San at a Living Culture Museum, to learn more about their language as well as their culture and traditions.
Take a township tour in Mondesa, Swakopmund, to meet Damara and Nama residents and have an introduction to Khoekhoe in their home.
Stay at a joint venture lodge in Damaraland, such as Damaraland Camp. The Damara community members who manage the lodges have formed their own choirs - composed of managers, chefs and waiting staff! They entertain guests upon arrival and at mealtimes with the most wonderful songs - sung with clicks, of course.
Most visitors come to Namibia for its wide open spaces, its magnificent landscapes and its abundant wildlife. But on your way across this vast country, it's always worth spending a morning taking a tour of quite a different kind - in a township.
1. See the Real Namibia
Soweto Market, Katutura
Namibia's emptiness is breathtaking - but of course, the majority of Namibians are not found in the vast desert expanses. If you really want to discover what daily life is like, you need to spend some time in town. In both Windhoek and Swakopmund, more people inhabit the townships than the cities themselves, and they are growing much more rapidly. Though their dark past goes back to the apartheid era, the townships are now thriving communities with their own market places, nightlife, restaurants - and even malls - and a township tour is a safe and educational way to discover the culture here.
2. Sample Traditional Food
Xwama Cultural Village Restaurant, Katutura
Braais, biltong and game steaks are delicious, and you are sure to have your fill in Namibia's restaurants and lodges. But for a more traditional taste of Namibia, you need to step outside the tourist hotspots. Township tours often include a some taster dishes - including mahangu (millet) porride, bean soup, and ekaka - a delicious wild spinach. The brave can try the Smiley Head (a whole goat head!) or the infamous mopane worms - spicy, fried and surprisingly tasty. Don't miss out on a glass of homebrew omalovu beer!
3. Find out What is Inside a Herero Lady's Hat!
Tour of Mondesa, near Swakopmund
A visit to a Herero home is an opportunity for a fascinating cultural exchange. The Herero follow two religions - Christianity and they traditional "Holy Fire", and they are also polygamous, although the first wife is allowed to choose subsequent wives so they are all friends (or even sisters!). During your chat, be sure to inquire about the Herero's unusual clothes - military uniform for men, and striking, colorful Victorian-style dresses for women. More importantly, be sure to ask what the strange, horned hats represent - and what is inside them!
4. Get a Crash Course in Clicks
Language lesson in a Nama household, Mondesa
The Damara and Nama people speak using clicks, and before entering their homes you will be taught how to greet them in the local language, so get ready to click away! As if remembering a new word wasn't difficult enough, there are four types of click, and using the wrong one can change the meaning of the word entirely!
5. Give Something Back
Community project in the Democratic Resettlement Community (DRC), Swakopmund
Tour companies operating in the townships support the people who live there, and part of each tour fee is invested in community projects such as kindergartens; paying the local families involved in the tour; and supporting local initiatives, such as handcraft workshops with womens groups.
On the edge of the townships there are "informal settlements" originally intended as temporary shelters for those arriving from rural areas, but many have become more permanent settlers in these areas which lack basic facilities such as electricity, and are dependent on shared water sources. These areas in particular are supported by the tour operators, who may be funding community centres, education and health initiatives for Namibia's poorest residents. Your guide will be able to tell you more about how your chosen tour company is involved.
The two tour operators below are highly recommended:
Katu Tours - Bike tours of Katutura township, outside Windhoek
Tours departs at 8:30am Tuesday to Sunday (3-12 people), clients must arrive 30 minutes earlier.
Starting/ending point: Penduka Project at Goreangab Dam, Katutura (See Map below)
- The tour takes 3.5 hours and covers a total distance of around 7km at a relaxed pace.
Hata Angu Cultural Tours - tours of Mondesa township, outside Swakopmund
The tour incorporates visits to the houses of Nama, Damara and Herero people, a shebeen and a restaurant serving Owamb food, for a complete cultural experience.
Daytime and evening tours are available.
You will be collected from your accommodation in Swakopmund and driven to Mondesa.
In this weekly EXTREME NAMIBIA blog series we explore some of our country's extremes, and share with you practical information on how you can come and discover them for yourself.
The San people – also known as bushmen – are southern Africa’s only truly indigenous people. But more than that – genetic testing has proved that they are one of the groups from which all known modern humans evolved.
Today, around 35,000 San live in Namibia, forming six tribes, each with its own language and customs. Though many San have been displaced and are abandoning their hunter-gatherer lifestyle to become farmers and laborers, there is much we can still learn from them. Their ancient culture, customs, art and hunting techniques have taught us much about extinct cultures, and allowed us to interpret what millennia-old cave paintings and rock engravings might have represented, for example. But perhaps more importantly, at a time when many species are threatened with extinction and resources are not enough to support a growing population, the San’s truly sustainable traditional lifestyle may be able to teach us how to live in harmony with nature once again.
At One with Nature – Survival in the Desert
One of the things that amazes visitors to Namibia is nature’s ability to survive – thrive, even – in the harshest of climates. In a vast land which is starved of water for most of year, where temperatures soar during the day and drop below freezing at night, it is astonishing to discover that plant and animal life flourish here. But for thousands of years, humans, too, have made this land their home.
The San are greatly admired for their hunting and tracking skills, for their incredible endurance and their profound knowledge of the inhospitable environment they inhabit. They read the environment as we would a book; each track or blade of grass telling a whole story. How long does a spider take to re-spin his web after a springbok has snagged it? How long does it take termites to reconstruct their mounds after a warthog has trampled it? How long does it take for damp earth to dry, for a branch to spring back into place? That’s how long ago the prey passed.
The composition of an animal’s dung belies its age and health; tracks indicate an injured individual. The San can run for hours after a herd of antelope, covering any terrain. Once they have targeted their prey with a poison arrow, they will have to track it for more hours or even days until it finally perishes – so knowing exactly which gemsbok or giraffe to follow is essential. Snares, traps and staking out burrows are other hunting techniques – honed to perfection over hundreds of generations.
In this land of scarce water, the San know which roots can be scraped or squeezed to quench their thirst. They dig deep holes in damp sand to create “sip wells”, where water is sucked up through hollow grass and then stored in an ostrich egg. A fire is all that’s needed to set up camp for a night; a few simple huts are a temporary village.
Of course, as they are moved from their ancestral lands and have to adopt new lifestyles to adapt to modern culture, these life-saving skills and knowledge are in danger of being lost forever. Namibia’s Living Culture Museums are one way in which the San culture is being preserved – shared with tourists and even more importantly, passed on to the next generation. Visitors learn about hunting and trapping techniques, making fire, building a shelter and identifying medicinal plants. The entrance fees and proceeds from craft sales support the community. And the San are able to continue using their desert skills to survive.
A visitor learns to hunt with the San at the Living Hunters Museum
Facts about the San
“San” means “outsider.” It was the word that neighboring, pastoral communities used to describe this nomadic people
There are around 90,000 San in southern Africa today. The majority live in Botswana, with the rest in Namibia, South Africa and Angola.
- Their genetic diversity is exceptionally high, which points to them being the ancestors to all humans throughout the world.
Find Out More
Imagine a school without desks and chairs, without walls or a blackboard. Imagine learning skills that have been learned over thousands of years, passed down through the world’s most ancient culture. Imagine being able to identify dozens of species – from an ant to elephant – without ever seeing a single one.
The real-world San classroom. Photo: Friedrich Alpers of IRDNC
To those of us unfamiliar with life in the bush, this seems like an impossible task. But for the San (also known as the bushmen), with thousands of years of accumulated wisdom and a lifetime spent tracking wildlife, the knowledge is innate. For millennia, their ancestors lived throughout southern Africa as hunter-gatherers with a subsistence lifestyle that made little impact on nature. Over the last thousand years, however, the San have suffered social disintegration and the erosion of their traditional values and skills as a result of oppression, persecution and loss of their land.
But in Caprivi – the small strip of Namibia sandwiched between Angola and Botswana – a group of San elders are determined to work with their youth to regain some of the skills they have lost. They hope that this will renew pride in their identity and culture, as well as creating opportunities for the youngsters to obtain employment in tourism.
The elders have developed the Tekoa Training Program in collaboration with Namibian NGO, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), with funding from WWF and USAID. Locally-employed community rangers, who have worked in the region for two decades, impart their bush skills to San children during the program, which takes place in Bwabwata National Park.
Newly-qualified San tracker-trainers in Bwabwata National Park. Photo: Friedrich Alpers of IRDNC
As the school kids, aged between 6 and 14, set off in single file down a fresh elephant track; the San tracker trainers, Alfred and Benson, point out millipede tracks, trapdoor spider hideouts, evidence of a scorpion’s nocturnal activities, tracks of a sable antelope rounding up his herd, and the footprints of a hunting leopard. They show the youngsters see where a tree squirrel leapt, a puff adder writhed, a gecko caught a moth and an impala marked his territory – all without spotting a single animal.
The kids are beaming with enthusiasm and eagerness to continue the exploration: the endless knowledge; the skills development of tracking; the learning of animal behavior; and the monitoring of endangered wildlife, such as cheetahs, wild dogs, roan antelopes and other rare species found in their park home.
These children are being given the opportunity to develop tracking and ecological management skills that are critical to preserve our natural system and the environment. Over the next few months, more than 200 rural children in Namibia’s remote north-east will learn the skills of their forefathers, and be able to apply these skills when looking for work and to contributing to finding sustainable solutions to the environmental challenges our planet faces.
This post is based on original article by Karine Nuulimba of IRDNC
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For anyone with hard-to-please relatives, in search of last-minute stocking fillers, or simply trying to shop in a more ethical way this Chrismas, a little shop in Swakopmund may just have the answer.
Kubatsirana Arts and Crafts shop sells a range of unique products, including natural creams and salt scrubs made from locally-sourced !nara seeds (used by indigenous people to soothe thhe skin for generations); !nara seed cooking oil; hand-stitched dolls; unusual Chrismas decorations; cushions; silkscreened t-shirts; jewellery; and beautiful lino prints.
But as well as being able to pick up something truly original for friends and family, shoppers at Kubatsirana are also supporting a variety of social projects based near Windhoek and Swakopmund. Kubatsirana means "helping each other", and every dollar spent here contributes to inproving the lives of the craftspeople who made these gorgeous items. Here are some of the projects supported by Kubatsirana:
- Over 4000 people live in the Democratic Resettlement Community (DRC) outside Swakopmund. This residents of this informal settlement have few work opportunities, but women from DRC are taught to make crafts from recycled materials such as newspaper and bottle tops. These are then sold to provide a small income. A soup kitchen now also feeds 120 children nutritious meals twice a week.
- Oasa Taradi means "busy women", and this group of needlework experts provide beautiful, hand-stiched and embroidered items to Kubatsira. Many are single mothers or the main income providers for their family.
- Katutura is the large township in Windhoek. Kubatsira supports various community projects here, including the Opongande Centre for disabled children; Dolam Children's Home for kids with AIDS and tuberculosis; and 40 creches which care for over 2000 children.
- Address: Libertina Amathila St and Brucken St, Swakopmund
- Telephone: +264 64 404806
- Email: email@example.com
- Monday-Friday: 9am-1pm, and 3pm-6pm
- Saturday: 9am-1pm
- Sunday: 4pm-6pm