There are many different faces in Namibia and although we are (next to Mongolia) the most sparsely populated country in the world, we do have a distinct variety of ethnic groups. Namas, Damaras, Owambos, Hereros, Ovahimbas, San, Kavangos, Coloureds, Basters, Afrikaner and Germans. More than half of Namibia's population lives in the rural areas of the North, here the Owambos, Himbas, Kavangos mostly live of fishing, growing crops and herding livestock. The Owambos are the dominant tribe in Namibia, who make up about 90% of voters for the ruling party SWAPO (South West African Peoples Party), which used to be the Owanbloland People’s Organization. Many Owambos migrated to more central and southern parts of the country in search of work. Himbas, cousins of the Hereros are the last nomadic, herding tribe in Namibia, well known for still following the traditional ways. Himbas are known for being proud people herding cattle and goats at the Kunene river and the Kaokoveld. As they wear very little clothing, apart from loin cloths, or skirts made from goat hide, they rub their skin with a mixture of ocher, fat and herbs to shield their skins from the harsh sun and insects. There are five Okavango tribes, the Geiriku, Shambiu, Mbunzu, Kwangali and Mbukushu. When travelling through Namibia one encounters many street markets, where people are selling wooden crafts, most of these trinkets originate from the Okavango area.
The central area of Namibia is inhabited by Hereros, Damaras, Coloureds and Basters. Hereros, whos numbers have been drastically reduced in a war against the Germans, are like their cousins the Himbas, proud cattle farmers. Not all, but a lot of Herero women still wear their traditional dresses: big Victorian styled creations, with a lot of petty coats, with a headdress made from rolled up cloth resembling cattle horns. These dresses were brought on by 19th century missionaries who found the semi nakedness of the Herero women to be scandalous. Damaras who are believed to be descended from Bantu tribes in West Africa and the first people to migrate to Namibia, have occupied the central long before the Hereros. They share a common language with the Nama People, however they are not related. With the appearance of Hereros and Namas the numbers of Damaras have been very much diminished. Rehoboth is the home of the Rehoboth Basters, a race that has Dutch-African origins and has tracked from the Western Cape of South Africa to settle about 90km away from Windhoek about 100 years ago. Coloureds, seemingly very similar to the Rehoboth Basters, are a mixed race, between Africans and Europeans. During the Apartheid era coloureds were seldomly accepted by any other group. Both, Rehoboth Basters and Coloured speak Afrikaans, with only the dialect being different. In the South we have the Namas and San Bushmen. Jan Jonker Afrikaner led his people to the heart of Namibia beginning of the 19th Century, he was the one who established the first settlement in the area which is now known as Windhoek. Namas are noted to be a very poetic tribe, songs, poems and storytelling is a crucial part of their culture. Namas and San Bushmen have a lot in common they not only have similar physical features, but also share the same roots of their unique language. The San Bushmen are undoubtedly the first inhabitants of Southern Africa. Today they still live their nomadic lifestyle as hunters and gatherers in the Kalahari Desert. They survive on their vast knowledge of the plants and Wildlife, moving with the animals from water source to water source, they do not keep livestock, or plant crops, everything they own they can carry from one place to the next. The bushmen have lived in Namibia for about 30 000 years and have left rock carvings and paintings all over the country. Namibia's white population is mostly comprised of Afrikaners and Germans. Namibia having been a German colony for a brief time in history (only about 27 years), a lot of Germans have stayed in the country after it was put under South African administration and are proud to call themselves Namibians today. As descendants of the first European settlers in South Africa, mostly dutch, French and Portuguese sailors on their way to India. The Afrikaners are quite a young race, with their mother tongue - Afrikaans - as the youngest recognized language of the world. They are offhandedly referred to as "Boer" essentially meaning "farmer" this is what brought them to Namibia. Under South African custody for 70 years, Namibia was mainly used as meat provider, with enormous cattle farms. The history between so many culturally different people has been turbulent, to say the least. Wars and quarrels, between first the Namas and the Hereros, then Nama and Germans, Germans against Hereros and in the end Caucasian against African, have been waged, won and lost. Since the independence from South Africa in 1990, Namibia however, is a peaceful nation. In spite of there still being a long way ahead of us - for all sides- to show the desired tolerance, we are doing "a good job" so far.