23 sept 2010

The Nama of Namibia

Name: Nama or Namaqua (Hotttentots)
Living Area: Namibia, South-Africa and Botswana (Africa)
Population: >60.000
Language: Nama language (Khoe-Kwadi Central Khoisan family)
The Nama are the largest group of the Khoikhoi people, most of whom have largely disappeared as a group, except for the Namas. Many live in Namaqualand, which today straddles the Namibian border with South Africa.
For thousands of years, the Khoisan peoples of South Africa and southern Namibia maintained a nomadic way of life. From 1904 to 1907, the Nama, along with the Herero took up arms against the Germans, who had colonized present-day Namibia. About 10,000 Nama, 50% of the total Nama population, perished during that war.
Following the discovery of diamonds at the mouth of the Orange River in the 1920s, however, prospectors began moving into the region, establishing towns at Alexander Bay and Port Nolloth, a process that accelerated the appropriation of traditional lands that had begun early in the colonial period. Under apartheid, remaining pastoralists were encouraged to abandon their traditional lifestyle in favour of village life.
The Nama people originally lived around the Orange River in southern Namibia and northern South Africa. The early colonialists referred to them as Hottentots. Their alternative historical name, "Namaqua", simply stems from the addition of the Khoekhoe language suffix "-qua/khwa", meaning "people" (found in the names of other Southern African nations like the Griqua)
In general the Nama practice a policy of communal land ownership. Music, poetry and story telling are very important in Nama culture and many stories have been passed down orally through the generations.
The Nama have a culture that is rich in the musical and literary abilities of its people. Traditional music, folk tales, proverbs, and praise poetry have been handed down for generations and form the base for much of their culture. They are known for crafts which include leatherwork, skin karosses and mats, musical instruments (such as reed flutes), jewellery, clay pots, and tortoiseshell powder containers.
In 1991, a portion of Namaqualand (home of the Nama and one of the last true wilderness areas of South Africa) became the Richtersveld National Park. In December 2002, ancestral lands, including the park, were returned to community ownership and the governments of South Africa, Namibia, and Angola embarked on the development of a transfrontier park along the west coast of southern Africa, absorbing the Richtersveld National Park. Today, the Richtersveld National Park is one of the few places where the original Nama traditions survive. Here, the Nama still move with the seasons and speak their language. The traditional Nama dwelling - the |haru oms, or portable rush-mat covered domed hut - is a reflection of a nomadic way of life, offering a cool haven against the blistering heat of the sun, yet easy to pack and move if grazing lands become scarce.
They have largely abandoned their traditional religion through the sustained efforts of Christian (and now Muslim) proselytisers. The majority of the Nama people in Namibia today are therefore Christian, with a small Muslim minority.
The Nama have much in common with the San (Bushmen) sharing the same linguistic roots and features, as with the San people the Nama have light skin, and a small delicate frame. The Nama language share a common language with the Damara people. The Nama consist of thirteen groups (listed with Nama name and European name in parenthesis) the !Kharkoen (Simon Cooper), /Hoaaran//Aixallaes (Afrikaner), =Aonin (Topnaar), Kai//Khaun, Khauben (Rooi Nasie), /Hai/Khau-an (Berseba tribe), Orlams, //Habobe/Kharloan (Veldskoendraers), //Khau/goan (Swartbooi), !Gami=nun (Bondelswarts), /Koenesen (Witbooi), //Okain (Groot Doders) and Kai/Khau-an (Lamberts). The imaginative spelling of the Nama names is due to the fact they have five clicks in the language, and these are their denotations.
One of the greatest Namibian leaders Hendrik Witbooi was a Nama leader who heroically harassed the German occupiers from his base in the Naukluft mountains and played a large part in the history of Namibia's first liberation struggle. Today he is fondly remembered by all sections of the Namibian Population and was chosen as the head which appears on all Namibian banknotes.
Well-known by: 
The traditional dress of Nama women consists of long, formal dresses that resemble Victorian traditional fashion. The long, flowing dresses were developed from the style of the missionaries in the 1800s, and this traditional clothing is today an integral part of the Nama nation's culture.
Some words in Nama language:   
hello: Matisa ti axaro
my name is ___: Ti inons ge ___
how are you?: Matisa

© Text and images: Wikipedia

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