The Nama People of Africa

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Contents

Introduction

The Namaqua are an indigenous group that is commonly known as the Nama, who are descendants of the Khoikhoi people and reside in parts of Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana. “The Nama consists of thirteen groups (listed with Nama name and European name in parenthesis) the !Kharkoen (Simon Cooper), /Hoaaran//Aixallaies (Afrikaner), =Aonin (Topnaar), Kai//Kaun, 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” [1] (The Nama People). The Nama share this traditional Khoisan language with the San (Bushmen), however, many Nama currently speak Afrikanns.

Namas-photos-4.jpg Nama People

History

The Nama lived a semi nomadic pastoral life for centuries in southern Namibia and northern South Africa; however, in 1652 colonizers began to arrive. “By the 19th century, Dutch settlers had already been mixing with the Nama for 200 years, and so many Nama had names of Europe origin” [2] (The Herero and Namaqua Genocide). Conflicts surfaced over the ownership of lands when the Nama people were pushed off their lands and entered into the Herero’s territory.

In the 1890’s, more German settlers began to arrive in Namibia, which had a major impact on the Herero’s way of life. The Herero tried to protect their lands by rebelling, however, in 1904 genocidal acts were committed against the Herero and the Nama people who also rebelled were next. The German commander “Lietenant-General Lothar von Trotha,” who under his command brought destruction to the Hereros, had a message for the Nama people:

“The Nama who chooses not to surrender and lets himself be seen in the German area will be shot, until all are exterminated. Those who, at the start of the rebellion, committed murder against whites or have commanded that whites be murdered have, by law, forfeited their lives. As for the few not defeated, it will fare with them as it fared with the Herero, who in their blindness also believed that they could make successful war against the powerful German Emperor and the great German people. I ask you, where are the Herero today?” [3] (Namibia 1904).

The Nama found themselves in the same horrific fate as the Herero. “Approximately ten thousand Nama were annihilated during the ensuing battles while 9000 were confined to concentration camps” [4] (The Herero and Namaqua Genocide). In 1907, the genocide had ended, however, many of the Hereros and Namas that survived were sold as slaves for German colonists. “The Herero and Namaqua genocide is considered the first genocide of the 20th century” [5] (Herero and Namaqua Genocide). The 100th anniversary of the genocide was in 2004 and the German government officially apologized about the genocide. Some Hereros wanted more than just an apology, but compensations. Germany’s Development Aid Minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, “ruled out paying a special compensation, declaring that the German government already paid a yearly sum of 11.5 million as development aid for Namibia” [6] (SONGUL).

Wa-map.png Map of Namibia

Culture and Lifestyle

Currently the Nama reside in different parts of Namibia. According to the Namibia Africa Travel and Tourism website, “You’ll find the Nama spread through Namibia; at Sesfontein in Kaokoland, in far south at places like Warmbad, or around Mariental, Tses, Gibeon, Maltahohe, Helmeringhausen and east of Luderitz in the southwestern corner of county” [7] (Nama Culture).

As we can see a majority of the Nama live towards the south. “Their main source of income is derived from livestock farming, especially cattle and goats, but the struggle for survival in the harsh environment of the semi-desert of the south of Namibia means that most Namas today live a subsistence existence" [8] (Nama).

The Nama culture has been kept alive with generational storytelling and poems, rich traditional music and dancing, and beautiful crafts created mostly by Nama women. Additionally, clothing also plays a part in the culture of many groups in Namibia. “Some women wear traditional clothing while others were Victorian style clothing because of the influence of missionaries in the areas” [9] (The Culture of Namibia). Most Nama women dress in this Victorian style.

Current Struggles

The Nama people are confronted with many issues concerning land, poverty, health, and their language. As once having a pastoralist identity, the Nama people survived off of their land until colonization, which has left a lasting affect on the Nama. In 2005 the United Nations Special Rapporteur Rodolfo Stavenhagen stated in his report Mission to South Africa that “In terms of poverty, the Nama and the San people likely constitute some of the poorest sectors in the South African society and the reason for this situation results from living in rural areas but also from a stigmatization of their status as a rural underclass, fit only for menial labour” [10] (Mission to South Africa).

Health issues are a main concern for the Nama and many other groups in Namibia. According to the “Seen Environmental Learning Information Sheet on Disease and Environment” states that, “Environmental diseases in Namibia are closely related to poverty in rural and urban areas, lack of access to clean drinking water, lack of access to clinics for immunization and treatment of illness, poor sanitation and poor waste disposal” [11] (Disease and Environment). Additionally, there are many diseases that affect the people of Namibia. “The five major killers in Namibia are: HIV/AIDS, TB, Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI), Diarrhoea and Malaria” [12] (Disease and Environment).

A major problem for the Nama is struggling to keep their culture and language alive. “There is no Nama literacy and the language is not taught in South African schools (a pilot project is being introduced in one village). The ancient !Khomani language, N/u, has no standardized alphabet system and most of its surviving speakers are over 60 years of age, thus less likely to grasp literacy skills” [13] (Mission to South Africa). Extreme measures must be taken in order to save the Nama’s language before it becomes extinct.



Reference

1. The Nama People The Cardboard Box Travel Shop. 17 February 2011

2. The Herero and Namaqua Genocide Gallery Ezakwantu. 17 February 2011

3. Namibia 1904 Peace Pledge Union Information. 26 February 2011

4. The Herero and Namaqua Genocide Gallery Ezakwantu. 17 February 2011

5. Herero and Namaqua Genocide Wikipedia. 26 February 2011

6. SONGUL Meryem. First Genocide of the 20th Century: Herero and Nama Genocide. 9 February 2009. The Journal of Turkish Weekly. 26 February 2011

7. Nama Culture Namibia Africa Travel and Tourism. 23 March 2011

8. Nama Tripwolf. 23 March 2011

9. The Culture of Namibia Spain Exchange. 23 March 2011

10. Mission to South Africa Economic and Social Council. 15 December 2005. United Nations. 19 April 2011

11. Disease and Environment Seen Environment Learning. 19 April 2011

12. Disease and Environment Seen Environment Learning. 19 April 2011

13. Mission to South Africa Economic and Social Council. 15 December 2005. United Nations. 19 April 2011

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