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Ombu Village: The pulse of the Ovaherero culture

2024-04-19  Otniel Hembapu

Ombu Village: The pulse of the Ovaherero culture

OMBU VILLAGE – Ombu cultural village remainsone of Namibia’s truly living Oveherero heritage sites, where the culture, history and ways of life of the Ovaherero people are on full display.

The cultural village officially opened its doors to the public around 2019 in the form of a multi-faceted cultural village, where the everyday lifestyle of the Ovaherero people is showcased.  A museum with various historical and centuries-old artefacts of the Ovaherero is also on offer.

The name ‘Ombu’ is derived from the Otjiherero word for “water fountain”, or a reservoir that holds plenty of water and green pastures. 

The village also boasts numerous camping sites, where visitors can overnight and experience true African bush camping on sites that are located close to the revered lands, where many of the
Ovaherero bloody battles against the German imperial troops took place.

At the heart of its design and setup, Ombu cultural village seeks to document, preserve and showcase the history, culture and legacy of the Ovaherero people. Notably, the village also speaks to the evolution and future of the tribe.

The village offers a unique practical insight into how the tribe used to live, how their houses were built, how families were set up and how cattle, sheep and goats were reared and conserved for centuries.

The village consists of a traditional homestead, comprising nine traditional houses with distinct designs and building methods dating back to the 1800s, as well as other periodic designs from the last 150 years.

Among the houses on display at the village is a clay rondavel, built from a mixture of cow dung and ant-hill sand.  Ovate clay houses were amongst the first designs that the Ovaherero adopted, and served as part of their cultural and social setup for years.

Over the years, as the Ovaherero started to encounter other cultures, including early colonists, iron sheets and drum sheets were used in constructing their houses. They eventually evolved to bricks and mortar to construct their houses,
as can be witnessed in most modern-day Herero homesteads.

Ombu cultural village boasts a traditional cattle kraal, built strictly using wood and other natural reinforcements. Hardwood, which they used for constructing kraals, was used by the tribe to provide support and strength in the construction of houses for hundreds of years.

New and exciting developments are also coming to the village, with rooms, a swimming pool, a conference hall and many other additions all planned for the coming months, Ombu’s tour guide Kavisana Jeomba excitedly shared. 

“As you can see, there is a lot of construction taking place in the village and very soon, visitors will be able to enjoy other additional services and also get an opportunity to fully embrace the offerings of the village by overnighting here, at the village itself, especially for those that might not prefer camping. So,
we are thrilled with what is coming, and our visitors must be on the lookout for more exciting developments at Ombu village.”

The plan for the future is to gradually transform the village – not only into a vibrant cultural hub- but a place where visitors and their loved ones will create memories
and acquaint themselves with history while enjoying the endless offerings of nature.



The cultural museum at Ombu village documents and showcases the over 200 years of the history of the Ovaherero people, dating back to the 16th, 17th and up to the 20th century. The museum is built next to the cultural village.

The museum depicts the Ovaherero’s cultural history through displays, statues, audio-visual presentations and artefacts. 

It also documents their history, migration journeys and wars, as well as their impact on this community’s leadership, political, economic, social and cultural spheres.

The Ovaherero are historically nomadic herders, with cattle forming a central part of their culture, and they are a people with a very rich and complex history.

Their inimitable traditions have been shaped by centuries of interaction with other African tribes, as well as with European colonisers. The Ovaherero are believed to have migrated from East Africa into present-day Namibia around the late 15th century, and they have always been organised into clans, led by a chief and governed by customary laws that regulated marriage, inheritance and property rights.

Just like in the past, to this very day, the Ovaherero people are able to thrive in Namibia’s semi-arid environment, with cattle, sheep and goats still being their main source of economic and cultural survival.  

Ombu cultural museum showcases that rich history, while Jeomba is always on hand to enthusiastically narrate and unpack the intricate details around the Ovaherero and their ways of life.


All in the open

With no details left behind, Ombu cultural museum bares it all in the open as it goes into depth to reveal and showcase the painful and blood-filled colonial history of the Ovaherero people, especially the 1904-08 genocide that saw around 80 000 Ovaherero and more than 10 000 Nama perish at the hands of intrusive German colonial troops.

In the late 19th century,
Germany established a colony in what is now known as Namibia, and implemented regressive
policies that stripped the Herero people of their land and hard-
earned resources.

In 1904, after years of resistance to colonial rule, the Ovaherero launched an uprising against the German occupiers in an attempt to drive them off their lands and recover their stolen cattle.

In retaliation, the German military launched a brutal campaign of violence, leading to what is now widely recognised as the first genocide of the 20th century. 

Between 50 000 and 80 000 Hereros were shot, poisoned and driven into the scorching Kalahari Desert to die from thirst, diseases and hunger.

Those who managed to survive were captured and subjected to forced labour and imprisonment in concentration camps, where they eventually died from the harsh conditions of those disease-infested camps. It is widely documented that 85% of the Ovaherero people were annihilated during this period. 

Today, in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, the legacy of this colonial violence and genocide continues to shape the experiences and ways of life of the Ovaherero. 


The shop

Ombu cultural village also offers a curio shop that sells a variety of Ovaherero traditional, handcrafted arts and crafts items, which are bought from artisans in nearby villages. 

The selling of these items is an important catalyst for enabling local crafters, artists and communities to make a living and create support for small businesses.

The shop places special emphasis on sustaining traditional handicrafts, culture and customs, as well as ensuring the survival and transfer of these rare skills to the next generation. 

In the shop are traditional items that were used when gathering, preparing and storing food.

Although thought to be a single tribe by many, the Ovaherero are an assemblage of many other sub-groups, such as the Ovahimba, Ovazemba, Ovatjimba and Ovakuvare, among others.



The village offers five campsites to visitors in a safe and private setting, each site with its own bathroom and a toilet with a wood-heated shower and a hand basin. The campsites are spaced far apart so that it feels like you have the entire place to yourself, and it gives a lot of privacy to everyone.

Each of the five campsites consists of braai facilities and ablutions such as showers, sinks and toilets – all overlooking the wilderness.

2024-04-19  Otniel Hembapu

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