Home is any place where you are comfortable and feel as if you can be yourself. Home is a place where you feed off positive energy and feel free. It does not matter whether your home is outside in nature or in an apartment, as long as your heart is there.

Your home is the place where you feel that you belong, usually because your ideas or attitudes are the same as those of the people who live there and this is the nature that we see in our Namibian traditional homes. There is a sense of comfort, pride and joy that can always be found within these settlements. 

Let us look closely at a few types of different structures that our Namibian tribes have chosen to call their home…

The San People

The San people live in very small homes that are made from masses of very small twigs or sticks. The houses can withstand rain, but they do not need to be very waterproof considering that the San people live in the desert. The San people build their houses around each other as if it were a small town. All those houses would consist of 1-2 rooms. The San people use their houses for sleeping and cover, but they do most activities outside. They make their homes in caves, under rocky overhangs or in temporary shelters.

The Nama

The Nama live in rounded huts with a dome. The huts are made using branches and are covered with mats of woven reeds. They were originally designed with the nomadic lifestyle of these people in mind, hence the homes are light and easy to dismantle and then rebuild in a new position, when the pastures of an area become scarce. 

These huts are also perfect for the warm weather and the typical dry land inhabited by the Nama. The woven mats allow the passage of light and ventilation, and in the case of rare rainy days, the stems of the mats lining the hut absorb water and keep the inside of the cabin dry. 

In winter, the interior walls are covered with animal skins for added insulation. These huts then form the Nama camp that in the past was shaped like a big circle. 

The village is closed with a big fence of thorny branches with two entrances, one to the North and one to the South. Within this fence, the huts are positioned. In the large open space in the center, the livestock is gathered and during the night, there are no stockyards except for special pens for calves and lambs. The animals are located right in front of the owner’s cabin.

In some parts of Namibia, the traditional huts are now constructed with an assortment of more modern materials, such as large pieces of plastic that do not have the charm that natural materials instill in traditional huts.

The Damara

The Damara village consists of the Stone House, Bark House, Reed House, Pole House, Women’s House, Medicine House and the office and reception structure. The Damara have traditionally built mud houses as a source of shelter and these houses are built with sticks that are then plastered with cattle dung and sand mixture. 

These houses are cool during hot seasons and warm when it is cold. They are, however, becoming a rare site due to their lack of accessibility and durability in comparison to modem structures.

The Ovambo

The Ovambo use a wide range of materials, including thatch, wood, mud, mud brick and cow dung to make their homes. The traditional homestead in Ovambo is comprised of cattle kraals, several sleeping huts and other huts used for pounding millet and storing food and household utensils. The different sections within the homestead are separated from each other by a wooden palisade or a millet-stalk fence. Ovambo houses are traditionally of the rondavel type, mostly surrounded by palisades and often connected by passages. 

Most of the Ovambos in northern Namibian villages still live in traditional houses, although houses are increasingly becoming a combination of huts and cement block rooms.  The homesteads are surrounded by their mahangu field, so during the growing season the house is concealed by the tall millet stalks.  In the towns, the Ovambo live in modern cement houses.

The Herero

The houses in the Herero village house the parents, the children, and the grandparents of a family as part of a traditional settlement site. Traditional houses are usually circular or have an igloo like shape with plants on the top. 

The dung of the cattle is placed between the wooden parts of the house to properly secure the building to the ground. However, the more contemporary houses usually have a square shape and a metal roof. Nowadays, bricks are also used to build houses in the Herero village, but it is more expensive than dung and therefore not that frequently done.

A traditional settlement consists of a fence, the kraal (which is a place to milk the cattle or goats) and at least three cabins, out of which one is used by the parents, the other one is used by the children and the third one is used for ritual or religious purposes but it is also commonly used by the family in general.

The Himba

The homestead, called the onganda, is surrounded by a circular fence built with large branches. In most of the villages there is only one opening.  At the centre of the camp, the enclosure for cattle is surrounded by another fence. The huts for the rest of the clan are on the edge of the camp. Himba huts are circular and made of branches and dried mud and cow dung. 

A typical hut has a fireplace in the middle of the room for heating and cooking, cow skins on the ground that are used for sitting and sleeping, several pots and baskets and not much else. There are usually no beds or mattresses in the houses and the men use a wooden holder as a pillow. All pots, jugs and cups are made from clay or carved out of wood. 

The Kavango

There is not much information about the traditional village on the edge of Lake Samsitu, except that the village is built entirely of natural materials like tree branches, reeds, and grass. A typical homestead in the Kavango tribe consists of several dwelling places and granaries depending on the number of family members. 

The Kavango are polygamous, thus they have several huts to accommodate the wives and their small children, the older unmarried children, and their married children.

A home is more than four walls and a roof over your head. More than anything, home is found in community. It is an enjoyable, happy place where you can live, laugh, and learn. It is somewhere where you are loved, respected, and cared for and Ohorongo Game Reserve is the perfect place to feel at home. Book your stay at https://ohorongo.eco/ and experience the community that we share in Namibia.

— Innocentia Ranyaoa, Fizzin