Mbanderu people

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The Mbanderu people, or Ovambanderu, are a tribe inhabiting eastern parts of Namibia and western parts of Botswana.



While earlier theories of the meaning of the word mbanderu stated "People of the reed" (mbandu: people and oruu: reed),[1] the explanation common today is that mbanderu literally means 'fighters of old'.[2]


Results from investigations about similarities in their music point to East Africa as the origin of the all Bantu tribes that today inhabit Namibia. The Ovambo people left this area first and settled in the north of today's Namibia, the Herero people left after that, and the OvaMbanderu migrated last.[1] In the 19th century the OvaMbanderu had reached Angola and moved from there into Kaokoland and Ovamboland but got into fights with already resident Herero tribes and subsequently settled in the eastern part of South-West Africa.[2]

After reaching the area around Okakarara the OvaMbanderu spread out to find suitable pasture for their cattle.[1]


The culture of the Ovambanderu people does not differ much from the one of the Ovaherero people. They speak almost the same language and also share the same sacred beliefs, for instance in the use of the holy fire (okuruwo) to communicate with their ancestors.

Two important cultural notions among all Herero-speaking groups are ejanda and oruzo. These are generally synonymous with matrilineage and patrilineage, respectively. The recognition of lineal ancestry through both mothers and through fathers is generally known as double descent. "Ejanda" identity is important in determining who one should marry; two people in exactly the same ejanda should not get married to each other. In the past, marriage partners may have been determined at the birth of a girl by her parents. In many cases, the groom was much older than the girl.[3]

"Oruzo" is associated with traditional religious practice and with political leadership. It is symbolized in part by prohibitions about raising and eating particular kinds of animals.

Using dogs and traps are the traditional methods of hunting. .[4]Since the 19th century, horses and guns have also been used.

Notable Mbanderu people[edit]

Notable people of Ovambanderu descent are:

Ovambanderu and the symbolism of Cattle[edit]

Ask any Ovambanderu about Cattle and you will get more than what you had bargained for given the significance they attach to this domestic animal. Not only is it a source of meat and milk, it also plays a significant role in cultural activities during happy or sad times, as well as during peaceful or volatile times. During times of conflict a cow could be used as a warning about an advancing enemy or to inform the Ovambanderu warriors that they could rest because there were no signs of any lurking danger in the horizon. Do not be misled into thinking that any cow in the kraal could fulfill these divine roles, no; it had to be a special one chosen with the aid of ancestors.

factual about the Ovambanderu[edit]

Also, not every Jack and Jill could perform these rituals; it was only the head of the household who was mandated to conduct these rituals. The Ovambanderu’s taboos are synonymous with cattle and during rituals which were conducted around a fireplace the head of the household prayed to the ancestors. Choosing a cow which was used during these traditional Ovambanderu rituals was at the discretion of the owner of the cattle.However, the cow could also be given to a man who had hunted and killed a lion. The milk from the cow used for rituals could also not be drunk by outsiders, hence when they settled in Bechuanaland from Namibia where they had fled a combined German and Nama onslaught, they requested to be allowed to live alone. The Ovambanderu also believed in the circumcision of young boys which was performed by cultural experts in homes.

The three chiefs of Ovambanderu[edit]

This was done for identity purposes and outsiders who were not circumcised could not drink milk from the cow used for rituals. Not only that, even those among the Ovambanderu who had not undergone the procedure could not drink it.

If they did, they ran the risk of developing an elongated tongue which protruded outside the mouth until the cow’s owner cured them by invoking certain rituals.
According to Kgosi Nguvauva Salatiel Nguvauva II of Toromoja in the Boteti district, the Ovambanderu culture is closer to that of the Baherero as they are both pastoralists and their taboos are related to cattle.
Kgosi Nguvauva II said their staple food was meat, sour milk or Omaere, which they could also extract fat (ngondivi) from.

Ovambanderu Culture[edit]

Many of the Mbanderu people settled along the Boteti River around Tsienyane. The area was already settled by other tribes, thus they requested to be allocated their own land where they could practice their own culture without any hindrance. The Bateti were moved to the other side of the river and in 1932 the Ovambanderu settled in Toromoja.

The culture of the Ovambanderu was indeed puzzling, for instance, when their chiefs died they were buried in Namibia where the tribe came from.One of the village elders the chief had invited to the Kgotla for the interview, Mr Mathias Mbaeva explained that when Kgosi Nichodemus died in 1945, he was buried in Toromoja, but his remains were exhumed in 1947 to be re-buried back home in Namibia as per his wish.



  1. ^ a b c Sundermeier, Theo (1977). Die Mbanderu. Studien zu ihrer Geschichte und Kultur [The Mbanderu. Studies on their History and Culture]. Collectanea Instituti Anthropos (in German) 14. Sankt Augustin: Anthropos Institut. pp. 11–13. ISBN 3921389607. 
  2. ^ a b Tonchi, Victor L; Lindeke, William Alfred; Grotpeter, John J (2012). Historical Dictionary of Namibia. African historical dictionaries. Scarecrow Press. p. 255. ISBN 9780810853980. 
  3. ^ Double Descent and Its Correlates among the Herero of Ngamiland1 GD Gibson American Anthropologist 58 (1), 109-139
  4. ^ "Historical Colour Photographs of Tswana Chiefdoms and Hereros in Exile". Retrieved 2014-08-09. 

Further reading[edit]


  • ^ Botswana Daily news