Herero - Orientation

Identification and Location. In Otjiherero, the Herero language, "Ovaherero" means the "Herero people," and Omuherero" refers to a single Herero person. The Herero are a Bantu group living today in Namibia (formerly South-West Africa) and in the Republic of Botswana (formerly Bechuanaland) in southern Africa. Those in Botswana are located in and around the Kalahari Desert and are descended from a group of Herero who escaped from South-West Africa after an unsuccessful war against German colonialiste in 1904. The majority of Herero, numbering over 30,000, remained behind, were incarcerated, and were subjected to forced cultural assimilation. This description treats the Herero in general before the 1904 war, together with the Herero of Botswana after that time, as an ethnographic unit. The Herero of Namibia, who have been dominated by and incorporated into a European-based tradition, are not discussed here.

Demography. The government of the Republic of Botswana discourages "tribalism" and does not identify the "ethnicity" of its citizens, rendering an accurate count of the Herero impossible. Modern estimates range between 7,000 and 8,000 persons, the greatest percentage of whom live in western Botswana on the northern fringe of the Kalahari, in Ghansi District and in Ngamiland District. Makakun, the first Herero settlement in Botswana after the flight from Namibia and still the largest Herero area, is located west of Lake Ngami, in Ngamiland.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Herero speak a form of southwestern Bantu that is shared most closely by two other major groups, the Ovambo (or Ambo) and the Ovimbandu (or Umbandu), both of which are found in Angola, north of Namibia. The Herero Branch of southwestern Bantu consists of four major groups of speakers: the Mbanderu, the Himba, the Tjimba, and the Herero proper.

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