Herero - History and Cultural Relations

The Herero are thought to have migrated westward from the lacustrine area of eastern and central Africa and then southward, entering the Kaokoveld, in what is now northern Namibia, around 1550. After some years in the Kaokoveld, they began a gradual push south, spreading as far as present-day Windhoek by about 1750. In their diffusion throughout Namibia, Herero came into conflict with other native occupants of the territory, most notably the Hottentots. Beginning about 1825, a state of war existed off and on between the Herero and the Hottentots; by 1870 the Herero had established their supremacy, and a relative peace prevailed in Namibia during the next decade, followed by war again in 1880. In 1884, when the land became a German territory known as South-West Africa, the Germans used these intertribal conflicts to help establish their authority. They sided with the Herero, providing them arms and advice, while planning to use them to subjugate the Hottentots and other local groups, and then to disarm the Herero. In return for German help, some Herero leaders ceded the mineral rights in their pastureland. Simultaneously, European farmers and traders were moving into South-West Africa in increasing numbers and settling the land, thus restricting Herero access to water and pasturage for their herds. By the 1890s, when the Hottentots had by and large been subjugated and the Germans had adequately established themselves in the territory, they turned their efforts more directly to domination of the Herero. During the next several years, the Herero were gradually deprived of their livelihood and their nomadic freedom, prompting the Herero uprising in January 1904. At the battle of Waterberg in August, the Herero were decisively defeated. About 2,000, in a number of small groups, escaped eastward across the Kalahari into what was then the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, arriving with few or no cattle. In a strange land and without an economic base, Herero went to work for the Tswana, the numerically dominant tribal group in the country. Because the territory was a British protectorate (1885-1966) under "indirect rule," the incoming Herero applied to the local hereditary Tswana chief for permission to settle, and it was in the chief's jurisdiction that they resided. Herero entered the employ of Tswana (who, although horticulturists, kept some cattle), selling their labor and expertise as herders. In return, they received milk, crops, and an occasional calf. From the milk they made butter, which they sold back to Tswana. Herero ate sparingly, selling the extra food. With the proceeds, they bought additional cattle or acquired the stud services of bulls from Tswana herds—and undoubtedly they stole an animal here and there. The result of these activities was that in the 1930s, after about a generation in Botswana, Herero had amassed herds of sufficient size to assert economic independence from their former Tswana employers and reestablish pastoralism as their way of life. Today, despite their small population, the Herero are economically successful, and their contribution to Botswana's beef industry is indispensable to the national economy. Their transition from traditional pastoral nomads, with what has been called in East Africa the "cattle complex," to participants in a European-influenced economy, in which cattle are primarily market commodities, has produced profound changes in Herero society.

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User Contributions:

Gerhard Uys
Is it true that the Herero/Ovahimba are descendants of the Egyptians?
I personally enjoy this culture. It is very interesting and its rare to find this tribe in america

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