Namibia: New Country, New Government, New Freedom

Namibia: Assumptions on a Land Lost

From contributed by duncan1890

When first learning that I was going to be spending most of my semester researching Namibia, I trembled with fear. I knew that Nambia had gained its independence in 1990, and dread how I was going to be able to find enough information about the young country. My assumption was that it was a little country in Africa and all I thought about was the movie “Outbreak.” I thought tropical rain-forests filled with monkeys full of disease. After the first assignment I quickly realized that it was far from the tropic land filled with towering canopies and howling primates swinging from vines. Namibia is a land arid as the dustbowl filled with a largely riches the world envies.

Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

Herero Women in Victorian Dress
Herero Women in Victorian Dress courtesy of

In Namibia, the Herero women have a unique style of wearing long flowing Victorian dresses with a traditional bonnet that is fashioned to look like cattle horns. Richard Slater describes the traditional Herero style on his website, “Herero women wear very distinctive long flowing Victorian gowns, with multiple overlapping petticoats, and headdresses. Victorian missionaries, shocked by the near nakedness that they found among the Herero, introduced this style of dress and, astonishingly in view of temperatures in Namibia; it has survived (Slater 2009).” While the Victorian dress is an obvious influence of the Germans, the traditional head bonnet shaped to resemble cow horns stems from the local culture. In Namibia, outside of the big cities, wealth is displayed by the amount of cattle owned by a family. With cattle being such a strong presence in the society’s tradition, the traditional headdress of the Herero women makes total sense to locals but may be construed as odd by outsiders.

Namibian Herero women were living in an area that was occupied by a World War I Germany force that led to one of the worst genocides of the twentieth century.  The question one must contend with in regards to Namibia and the above statement is who was trying to assimilate into which faction’s society.  The local culture was basically colonized by the Germans.  The locals were not trying to assimilate into German culture.  The local people were being forced to submit to German rule.  This may be why the traditions of the tribal people have been passed down generation by generation into today’s society in the bush of Namibia.  On the other hand, had the Germans followed the methods outlined in the statement, maybe the genocide would have been avoided.

Business is Business

Those interested in moving business locations into Namibia will be glad to know that unlike many African “Other World” countries, Namibia’s Gross Domestic Product is on a steep incline.  Since it’s independence in 1990, the country’s GDP has almost gone up 400% from 2.35 billion in 1990 to 9.265 billion currently (, 2011).

Social Structure

Unlike most countries in Africa which have been born from neopatrimonial regimes, Gretchen Bauer explains in Namibia in the First Decade of Independence, that Namibia conforms to a description of a settler oligarchy (Bauer, 2001).  Bauer writes, “Not sharing the features of neo-patrimonial regimes in Africa, settler oligarchies have followed a distinctive path toward democracy.”  She goes on to explain, “Certainly the nature of the political regime previous to the transition in Namibia was unlike that of any other African country attempting a regime transition in recent years and this surely accounts for much of the difference in Namibia’s transition outcome.  More important than Namibia’s status as a ‘settler oligarchy’ was undoubtedly Namibia’s status as a colony.  In fact, Namibia’s transition was a decolonization – a transition from 100 years of colonial rule, first by the Germans and then the South Africans – to political independence.  It was not a transition from an indigenous authoritarian rule to an indigenous democratic rule.”

Life in the Big City

Downtown Windhoeck
Downtown Windhoeck courtesy of

Life in Namibia is greatly separated between the tribal life and the city life.  In the cities, life is much like life in the western world. describes it as, “Urban areas, large workplaces such as mines and fisheries, and secondary and tertiary schools are multi-ethnic sites where people are creating new ways of interacting across ethnic boundaries(”  One can also find an article on city life in the capital city of Windhoek on  The article describes life in Windhoek as, “multicultural city characterised by tranquil co-existence and enough lebensraum for all its citizens.”  For westerners, life in the capital city will  almost be  as normal as sitting at your neighborhood Starbucks.

Good Afternoon

Diamonds courtesy of

Most Namibians understand English, therefore you will want to use customary western greetings when first initializing a conversation.  It is considered rude to just come out and ask for directions without first properly making a greeting (McIntyre, 2011).

Trade and Commerce

Namibia’s largest trade export is minerals.  From diamonds to uranium, Namibia is one of the world’s largest mineral producers, although with out proper regulations by the government, it may also be its downfall.  Mining uses a copious amount of water to produce raw minerals from the earth.  In and already arid land, over mining may consume what little aquifers they already have.


An interview of Cape Town University in 1971
An interview of Cape Town University in 1971 courtesy of

Art is alive and well in Namibia.  One of the most prolific artists from Namibia is John Muafangejo.  He is the most well known artist worldwide that comes from Namibia.  He has a very large body of work that is touted to be some of the world’s best.I have chosen to focus on a linocut on paper by John Muafangejo. The title of this piece of art is An interview of Cape Town University in 1971. It depicts the Namibian artist at an interview with the all white staff at the University of Cape Town as he applied to study there where he was soon informed that he was rejected. It shows the struggle of the native people of Africa and how they were still discriminated against by skin color instead of by the quality of work. John Muafangejo is Namibia’s most standout artist. Although he was rejected by the University he was later accepted to be a artist in residence at Rorke’s Drift (Siebrits, 2004).

The picture is laid out with the artist sitting the end of a long table with a jury of white administrators holding writing utensil in a fashion similar to knives and daggers. It is similar in composition to The Last Supper with all the attention focused at the artist with faces of disdain or dismissal while he sits quietly at the head of the table with a look of sadness. This artwork shows how the overbearing white suppression is on the native Africans in Southern Africa.


Agriculture in Namibia
Agriculture in Namibia courtesy of

Farming prospers in the arid climate in Namibia. According to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation, “The commercial farming sector is well developed, capital-intensive and export oriented. Commercial area livestock production accounts for 69% of national agricultural output and comes from 52% of the farming/grazing land. The freehold area is divided into 6 337 farms, with an average size of 5 700 hectacres, owned by about 4 200 individuals or agricultural enterprises.


On a lighter side, the accomplishment in science also are on the up look in Namibia.  Michaela Clayton is a standout for human rights from Namibia. An article from explains, “passionate and unflagging commitment for more than 15 years to protecting the rights of people living with HIV. Among other contributions, she was the founding director of the AIDS Legal Unit at the Legal Assistance Centre in Namibia, the first public interest legal organization in the country. At the Legal Assistance Center, Clayton was counsel in successful litigation challenging the Namibian military’s testing and exclusion of HIV-positive recruits, and worked closely with the Namibian government and public interest groups to develop the Namibian HIV/AIDS Charter of Rights and the country’s National AIDS Policy (Marchildon, & Ellliott, 2009).”


Namibia’s constitution allows for freedom of religion.  On a global level, the freedom of religion allows Namibia to welcome all people to its home front.  According to the United States of America’s State Department, there are 2.2 million residents in Namibia and 1.98 million of them are Christians.  Like most countries with rights to religious freedoms, there may be local regulations that must be followed to establish religious establishments.  In order to gain land to build a church in Windhoek, Namibia the U.S. State department website states, “it needs to demonstrate that it has a constitution, registration with the Council of Churches, and sound financial management. The church must have at least 250 members and have been in operation for at least two years.”(State Dept., 2010)  There are three dominant religions in Namibia.  These are Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Anglican churches.  While these three dominate the country there are still many other Christian churches throughout the country.  Along with the varied Christian churches there are still Jews, Buddhists, Muslims scattered among the many Christians (2010).  Religious freedom found in Namibia is not shared by many of its other African Nations making Namibia a business friendly country.


Bauer, Gretchen. (2001). Namibia in the first decade of independence: how democratic?. Journal of Southern African Studies, 27(1), 33-55., . (2011). Culture of namibia – traditional, history, people, women, food, customs, family, social, marriage. Retrieved from (2011). World bank, world development indicators – google public data. Retrieved from

Marchildon , Gilles , & Ellliott , R. (2009, June 30). Michaela clayton honoured for hiv/aids and human rights work. Retrieved from

McIntyre, C. (2011). Namibia: the bradt travel guide. Chalfort St Peter, England: Bradt Travel Guides, Ltd.

Siebrits, W. (2004, April). A r t t h r o b _ g a l l e r y _ c h o i c e. Retrieved from

Slater, R. (2009). Na102 himba woman in victorian dress.tif | richard slater. Retrieved from

US STATE DEPT. (2009, February 25). 2008 human rights report: namibia. Retrieved from