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Ovambo men
(between 1906 and 1918)
Ovambo girls

The Bantu society of the Ovambo ( listen ? / I ), also Owambo , is the numerically largest population group in Namibia and is also the largest ethnic group in the immediately adjacent extreme south of Angola . The Ovambo live mainly in the Namibian-Angolan border region of the Four E regions , the area of ​​which was called Ovamboland during the German colonial times and under the South African occupation . The region lies between southern Angola and the Etosha National Park in Namibia. About a quarter of the Ovambo live in the southern Angolan province of Cunene . Audio file / audio sample

The Ovambo are divided into twelve groups. The eight groups living in the Namibian part of Ovamboland are the Kwanyama, Ndonga, Kwambi, Ngandjera, Mbalanhu, Kwaluudhi, Eunda and Kolonkdhi, who made up about 670,000 members in 1994. In Angola the Kwanyama (Portuguese: Cuanhama) are by far the most important group; in addition to them, the Kwamato (Cuamato) and the Kwangar (Cuangar) have numerical importance, while the Evale, the Kafima (Cafima) and the Ndombondola represent residual groups.

The Ovambo language is the Oshivambo . However, this is only spoken in Angola in the form of the dialects that are specific to the various groups.

economy and society

The Ovambo parentage system is matrilineal , which means that the maternal line is by far the most important.

In pre-colonial times, and for a long time under the influence of foreign powers, the Ovambo practiced polygamy , with a man usually having two to four wives. The man lived with his wives in a kind of court , within which each wife had her own living space, where she lived with her children. Polygamy is still practiced in individual cases, albeit “unofficially”. In addition to immediate family ties, the Owambo are organized into family clans , with the maternal clan generally considered to be the most important due to the matrilineal ancestry system.

Marriages based traditionally on the one hand to clan exogamie and on the other hand to groups endogamie , which means that marriages between members of the same group are accepted, while marriages be seen between members of the same clans unwillingly.

The Ovambo traditionally live in round houses with palisades between the Oshanas , temporary lakes in the rainy season. They are mostly farmers and raise cattle , goats and sheep . Cattle breeding is the domain of the men, while the women grow finger millet ( mahangu ), which is used to make porridge and beer . In addition, sorghum , corn , beans and pumpkins are grown. Both are traditionally operated as a subsistence economy . Many, especially men, have also been working since the apartheid period , but also in today's Namibia, as migrant workers in southern Namibian industries and on farms. In recent years, because of the high population density of the Ovambo and the resulting lack of land, subsistence farming has been increasingly abandoned and the Owambo are becoming part of a national labor market. As a result, local centers such as Oshakati , Ongwediva and Ombalantu also grew.

The ethnic groups of the Ovambo have historically formed several small kingdoms , which were partially abolished in Namibia during the South African occupation, but are today again as traditional leaders , part of the Namibian political system . During the apartheid period up to 1980, the homeland of the Ovambonamibier was administered by the so-called Homeland Ovamboland . The Ovambo make up the absolute majority of Namibia's population with more than 50 percent . In Angola, the small kingdom of the Kwanyama was dissolved by the Portuguese after fierce resistance, but the traditional leaders (as in the entire territory) received a certain recognition in the colonial system; this tradition has been resumed in post-colonial Angola.

The current governing party of Namibia, the SWAPO , has its roots in Owambo (90 percent share of the vote) and is the successor organization to the Ovamboland People's Organization (OPO) founded in 1957 . Both the first President of Namibia, Samuel Nujoma , and his successor Hifikepunye Pohamba are ethnically based on Owambo.

Famous Ovambo in Namibia

Kings of the Ovambo in Namibia





  • John Paul : Economy and Settlement in southern Amboland . In: Scientific publications of the Museum for Regional Geography in Leipzig. NF 2, 1933. (With references)
  • Joachim Fernau, Kurt Kayser, Johannes Paul (Eds.): Africa is waiting. A picture book on colonial politics. Rütten & Loening Verlag, Potsdam 1942. (With photographs by Johannes Paul from the geographical research trip 1927–1930 to the Amboland to the Ovambo)
  • Nick Santross, Gordon Baker, Sebastian Ballard: Namibia Handbook. 3. Edition. Footprint Handbooks, Bath (England) 2001, ISBN 1-900949-91-1 , p. 360.
  • Ulf G. Stuberger: I was a white farmer in Africa. Herbig, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-7766-2575-2 .
  • Ulf G. Stuberger, Savelia Stuberger: Owambo - Leben in Namibia Shaker, Aachen 2009, ISBN 978-3-86858-505-6 .
  • Ramiro Ladeiro Monteiro: Os Ambós de Angola antes da Independência. Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas / Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, Lisbon 1994.
  • Maria Helena Figueiredo Lima: Nação Ovambo. Editorial Aster, Lisbon 1977.
  • José Redinha: Etnias e Culturas de Angola. Instituto de Investigação Científica de Angola, Luanda 1975.

Web links

Wiktionary: Ovambo  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual references and sources

  1. The prefix "Ova-" expresses the plural. The root is ambo. Ova-Ambo is contracted to Ovambo.
  2. ^ A b G. Davies: The Medical Culture of the Ovambo of Southern Angola and Northern Namibia. PHDThesis. University of Kent, Canterbury 1994. (HTML file, no page number, with links to the chapters accessible as PDF files) - ( Memento of the original from February 19, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , March 10, 2012. (English) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / lucy.ukc.ac.uk
  3. a b I. Twedten, p Nangulah: Social Relations of Poverty: A Case-Study from Ovambo, Namibia. Chr. Michelsen Institute - Development Studies and Human Rights, Bergen, Norway 1999. PDF file [1] (PDF; 4.1 MB), March 10, 2012. (English)