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Culture of Namibia


The culture of Namibia and customs are a blend of many different peoples and cultures, similar in some respects to the ‘rainbow’ nation next door.


Home to the Bushmen, the oldest inhabitants of southern Africa as well as to the more recently arrived Europeans, Namibia’s culture and customs have absorbed both African and European elements and fused them into a blend of the two. The choral tradition brought from Germany has been adopted and modified and is one of Namibia’s most vibrant art forms, while cooking in a potjie, a traditional three-legged iron pot over an open fire, is a favourite pastime of many Namibians.


Many craftspeople produce objects for local use and the tourist trade; wood carvings (containers, furniture, animals) from the Kavango and basketry from Owambo are the best known examples. Some craftspeople have formed organizations to assist each other with production and marketing.


The music of Namibia has a number of folk styles, as well as pop, rock, reggae, jazz, house and hip hop. The Sanlam-NBC Music Awards and the Namibian Music Awards are two separate institutions that give out annual awards at shows on December 2 and May 6 respectively .

 The Namibia Society of Composers and Authors of Music (NASCAM) has helped promote Namibian music within and outside the country, but despite this, the Namibian music industry remains undeveloped, with no major record labels or distribution infrastructure. A lack of focus to produce economically viable Namibian music products and the absence of effective marketing and distribution structures are two of the factors inherently hampering the development of the local music industry.


Culture can also be seen in the clothing that they wear. Women in different areas of Namibia do dress differently from each other. Some women wear traditional clothing while others wear Victorian styled clothing because of the influence of the missionaries in the area.

 The Herrero women wear traditional style clothing and dress themselves with traditional jewelry. You can also tell that one woman is different in rank by just observing their hairstyles. A certain hairstyle can tell you the age and social status of the woman on society.


For agriculturalists, the staple foods are millet and sorghum; for pastoralists, dairy products. Beans and greens are eaten with millet in the north, but otherwise few vegetables are grown or consumed. Hunting and gathering, more important in the past, still provides a dietary supplement for some. Meat is highly desired and eaten as often as it is feasible—daily for some, on special occasions for others. Fish consumption is slowly increasing with government promotion of Namibian fish products.


Despite the small population, there is great linguistic variety. Most Namibians speak Bantu languages like Oshiwambo and Otjiherero as their first language. Others speak Khoisan languages (Nama/Damara and various Bushman languages), while a smaller percentage are native speakers of Indo-European languages like Afrikaans and English.

 Afrikaans was promoted as a language of wider communication before independence and is still widely spoken in southern and central Namibia. At independence, English was chosen as the primary language for government and education because it was not associated with any particular ethnicity and could facilitate interaction with the outside world. Urban dwellers, young people, and northerners are more likely to have learned it.


The literary community in Namibia is relatively small. Most literature in the indigenous languages consists of traditional tales, short stories, and novels written for schoolchildren. Published fiction, poetry, and autobiographical writings appear in both the English and Afrikaans languages.


Most of central and southern Namibia, an area formerly known as the Police Zone, was appropriated for white settlement. Today it consists of large commercial farms and widely scattered towns with Western-style buildings, some distinctly German. 

In the rural communal areas (former ethnic homelands), there are a variety of architectural styles in addition to Western buildings. Construction materials include sticks and logs, earth, and thatch. Houses may be round, square, or beehive-shaped; in some areas, clusters of huts are enclosed in wooden palisades. Some dwellings and shops are also made of metal sheets or concrete blocks with metal roofs, a style also seen in some urban neighborhoods.


The most popular sport in Namibia is football. The Namibia national football team qualified for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations but has yet to qualify for any World Cups. However, the most successful national team is the Namibian rugby team, having competed in four separate World Cups. Namibia were participants in the 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups. Cricket is also popular, with the national side having played in the 2003 Cricket World Cup.

Inline hockey was first played in 1995 and has also become more and more popular in the last years. The Women’s inline hockey National Team participated in the 2008 FIRS World Championships. Namibia is the home for one of the toughest footraces in the world, the Namibian ultra marathon.

The most famous athlete from Namibia is certainly Frankie Fredericks, sprinter (100 and 200 m). He won four Olympic silver medals (1992, 1996) and also has medals from several World Athletics Championships. He is also known for humanitarian activities in Namibia and further.


Celebrations with national or political significance include Cassinga Day (4 May) which commemorates the deaths of hundreds of Namibian refugees in a 1978 attack, Independence Day (21 May), and Heroes Day (26 August). These occasions are marked by singing, dancing, and speeches by public officials. Other secular holidays include New Year’s Day (1 January), Workers’ Day (1 May), and Africa Day (25 May).


The economy is heavily dependent on the extraction and processing of minerals for export. Mining accounts for 8% of GDP, but provides more than 50% of foreign exchange earnings. Rich alluvial diamond deposits make Namibia a primary source for gem-quality diamonds. Marine diamond mining is becoming increasingly important as the terrestrial diamond supply has dwindled. Namibia is the world’s fourth-largest producer of uranium. It also produces large quantities of zinc and is a small producer of gold and other minerals.

Namibia normally imports about 50% of its cereal requirements; in drought years food shortages are a major problem in rural areas. Leading imports are foodstuffs, petroleum products and fuel, machinery and equipment, and chemicals. Key export markets are the UK, South Africa, Spain, and France. South Africa, the US, Germany, and Japan are the leading suppliers for Namibia’s imports.