Namibia: The San People

By Julia

Namibia is a unique, diverse, and incredible place. The people there are no different. Namibians take pride in their culture and heritage in a beautiful way. They strive to preserve it, even while participating in normal aspects of society. I have been back for over a month, but I feel like I'm still processing my experiences. When people ask me about Namibia I describe it as amazing and life changing. But those quick conversations don't do my experience justice. So, I want to start sharing the stories of the diversely beautiful people of Namibia. 


The San People:

Have you ever seen the movie 'The Gods Must Be Crazy'? If not, you need to watch it! The bushmen people featured in the movie are the San People of Namibia. They are the oldest nomadic tribe. They can be characterized by their small stature. To put that in perspective for you, I am 5'5" and not a single member of their tribe stood taller than me. 

On Saturday, July 30th my classmates and I visited the Ombili San Village and I experienced joy in the purest form. "Ombili" means peace and I couldn't think of a better name to truly capture the essence of the San People's village. We rolled up in our bus, Big Sandy, and immediately felt welcome. Our tour guide's name was Alfini. He explained that the San People were nomadic until the founding of Namibia in 1990. The 7,000 hectare village we visited was farmland given to the San people to settle on by a group of Germans. Alfini also explained how their education is funded. The children are sponsored by people from all over the world. Their sponsorship starts after the seventh grade and will fund their education through high school. Alfini guided us through the village, sharing everything from where they tend their garden to where the oldest member of the tribe lives. 

Tourism helps the people of Namibia preserve and share their culture. However, it is also an important economic aspect for members of the tribes. The Ombili San Village Culture Center allows for tourism without being intrusive on the personal lives of village members. Compared to another village tour that I will blog about soon, it is very obvious that having that separation makes a positive impact on the experience for both the community giving the tour and the visitors. We felt genuinely accepted and welcome. At the Culture Center, San men dressed in authentic clothing performed a healing dance for us. Alfini, our tour guide, proudly introduced us to their choir. It was beautiful. 

When I say I experienced pure joy in the Ombili Village, I am referring to my time spent on the playground with the children. After our tour, we had about 15 minutes to visit the gift shop and just hang out. On our way to the culture center, we passed by a playground with the sweetest children ever. During our last fifteen minutes, my friend Madison and I snuck away to the playground. The children embraced us and wanted us to take their photos. They were really good at posing and eagerly jumped right in front of the camera. However, one little girl asked me if she could take my photo. Since I was in Namibia studying photography, it was really great to teach someone else to look through the viewfinder and capture what she saw. 

Then, those sweet little children asked me to go down their massive slide with them. Of course, I had to say yes. The only problem was that the only way to the top was to scale the slippery metal slide. I made it to the top and slid down, accompanied by a few children. That moment was my joy. I cherish it.  

Please enjoy my photos below. They each hold a special place in my heart. // X, Julia

The oldest and founding member of the Ombili San Village. She is 80 years old.

The oldest and founding member of the Ombili San Village. She is 80 years old.

The Ombili garden, untouched by the three year drought experienced by most Namibians.

The Ombili garden, untouched by the three year drought experienced by most Namibians.

Our gracious guide, Alfini. 

Our gracious guide, Alfini. 

Building a traditional bushmen fire.

Building a traditional bushmen fire.

The proud choir.

The proud choir.

Joy.

Joy.

Julia HayComment