Okakarara / HererolandOkakarara lies a few kilometres south-east of the Waterberg Park on the C22. The road leading through dusty land into the small village is tarred, sandy paths go to the scattered huts of the poor villagers. Children are playing in front of them. There are people sitting in the shade of a big acacia tree in the sand. A woman in traditional Herero clothes is sewing a dress.
Once this area was the homeland "Hereroland" and is now called Otjozondjupa. Today one can still observe the traditional way of life of the Herero. In the centre of each settlement in Hereroland lies the cattle kraal, an area fenced off with long wooden sticks to protect the herds from nocturnal predators. The Hereros have been herders for hundreds of years. Their lives revolve around their herds of cattle as they form the basis of their economy and are an important status symbol. "Without cattle a man is just nothing", they say. Many of the animals are believed to be holy and can only be slaughtered for sacrificial purposes while others may only be killed on special occasions, e.g. when the owner of the herd dies.
The sour milk called 'Omaere' forms the basis of the Herero diet. It is stored in big calebashes and every evening fresh milk is added. In the mornings the chief first tries it and then women and children may drink from it.
The ancestral cult plays an important role in the lives of many Herero people. In the evenings, they often sit under the Omumborumbonga tree in front of the 'Okuruo', the holy fire, which may never be left to burn out. The chief establishes contact with the ancestors and in a loud talk asks for advice and help or confesses mistakes and sins.
The pastures are poor in Hereroland due to the high number of cattle and scarce rainfalls; the area is hopelessly overgrazed. The government tries to promote tourism to create jobs for the people of Okakarara. In 2004 a little cultural centre with exhibitions about the Herero culture was founded and a café and curio shop opened, funded by German development aid monies. Unfortunately this centre is not so well managed. And the few tourists who come to this area at all, prefer the Okaepe Living Museum, 55 kilometres east of Okakarara. This Museum was built with the initiative and active help of Mrs. Batseba Rukero. The dedicated teacher ofers visitors an authentic experience and thorough insight into the traditional way of life and culture of the Herero people. One can watch how they make sour milk, 'Omaere', listen in at the children's school lessons and can even take part in a "Holy Fire" ceremony.
Top: Herero women in traditional headgear cooking Millipap on an open fire in front of her house. Left: Calebashes filled with Omaere. The women wait for the chief to try the sour milk.