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Namibian tribal stereotypes

Tue, 1 July 2014 16:28
by Andreas Kathindi


Namibians have been united under one flag for 24 years now, however with over eight different tribes in the country, stereotypes still continue to cause  division.
Generally stereotypes are created by those  with intentions to look down others in order to feel good about their own insecurities. Although some of these might be considered harmless, such as Herero people’s love for meat, others can be downright offensive, and could ignite tribalism and tribal tensions.
One popular stereotype in the northern areas like Oshakati and Ondangwa is that Katima Mulilo, generally a place of lush grasslands and a hot tourist destination, viewed by some of those who have never stepped a foot there as place of all supernatural workings.  
“Witchcraft is something that’s there because a lot of people in Katima believe in it. I grew up in Winhoek, but when I went there for holidays I would hear a lot of stories,“ says Caprivian, Sumbwa Mahoto. He adds, “If you put all the tribes together, Caprivians are the most feared or respected when it comes to witchcraft.“
Another stereotype, perhaps popular among tribes like Damara/Nama and Basters of Namibia is that Oshiwambo people are hard working, despite not having the brightest of lamps lit.
Sam Simon, an Oshiwambo speaker, says, “Of course we are not dumb. But every tribe has its own way of living. Oshiwambo folks work hard for their own living. They think of tomorrow. They’re not dumb; it’s just the way they live. From a young age we are just taught to be hardworking. We look after cows and do hard labour.” He adds, “of course not all Wambos are like that. But I can understand why they would think that.”
For long, Damara/Nama speakers have been seen by some as violent people with cut marks inscribed on their face to tell of their history in violence.
However, to this, John Dias a Damara himself with experience as a court prosecutor believes it is not completely false.
He says, “All the different tribes can be violent, but if you look at the court documents, Damara/Nama people are prosecuted the most for violent behaviour. From my observation, passion killings are mostly being committed by Oshiwambo folks, but the motives behind most Damara/Nama violent acts is quite frivolous.” He adds, “Some of these guys would stab each other over reasons that could have been easily resolved. For example, they can kill each other over a cigarette or because someone’s mother was insulted.”
He believes the reason for this is because everyone wants to be seen as hard, as once they show themselves to be vulnerable, they may be taken advantage of.
Other popular stereotypes which have somehow manifested themselves in into indigenous people of Namibia include Ovaherero people’s excessive sense of self pride that other tribes construe as closed-mindedness. Kavango people are said to be subservient and content with mediocrity. Rehoboth Basters have been said to have a robust relationship with the bottle. Whereas Afrikaners are believed to be intimidating especially when it comes to Afrikaans utterances.  
Ultimately, although some people within certain tribes will be guilty of tribal stereotypes, judging a person simply because of the tribe they belong to is an awful way to live life and takes away from experiencing all the diverse and beautiful cultures within the country and the world as a whole.