Xoms |Omis Project

Conserving Etosha's Cultural Heritage

The Cultural Heritage of the Hai||om in Etosha

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Photograph of a Hai||om ("Namutoni Bushman") dating to 1927
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Etosha National Park (22 270 km²) is one of the world’s largest national parks and the leading tourist destination in Namibia. More than 100'000 tourists visit Etosha each year. It's popularity is based on the abundance of it's wildlife: most of Namibia’s lion, elephant, rhino and other large animals live within the boundaries of the park.

However, the area of the park has long been home to the Hai||om, an indigenous hunter-gatherer community. During the 19th and into the beginning of the 20th century, the Hai||om lived in this region. They were enmeshed in trade networks and socio-political relations with surrounding groups. From 1907, when the park was created, until 1954, the Hai||om were accepted as residents within the national partk, while the surrounding area was increasingly occupied by white settlers.

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Grave of the famous headman |NuAises
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Especially the area South of the pan, where most of the tourist roads are situated, testifies the rich cultural heritage. The Hai||om lived in settlements close to the various natural waterholes in that area: the most important settlements were Rietfontein, which was known as !Nasoneb, at Homob which was called ‡Homob and at Namutoni, which once was ‡Amob. From these settlements, the Hai||om undertook seasonal expeditions in search of wild resources like game and plants. Many of these places are hugely symbolic for the elder Hai||om who grew up in Etosha.

They have acquired an incredible knowledge about the biodiversity, the use of various plants as food or medicine and the behaviour of game in that region. Much of this knowledge has been documented through the Xoms |Omis project and is now passed on to the younger generations through workshops and joint activities.

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