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Ethnology of the Mbunza

The Mbunza are one of five ethnic groups of Bantu people living in the Kavango area on both sides of the Okavango River in Namibia and Angola. Due to the fact that the Mbunza as well as the Kwangali, Shambyu, Gciriku, und Mbukushu are all living at Okavango River and are sharing quite a few cultural characteristics they are culturally merged and called Kavango.

Social life of the Mbunza

The social structures of the Mbunza are ruled by matrilineal inheritance.  All socially important duties of the community are performed by relatives of the female lineage.

The most important social groups are the clan and the lineage. Within the Mbunza we find eight clans. A clan consists of members that can trace their common origin to long gone ancestors. The clan members live scattered over the whole tribal area and they do not form a territorial, political or religious entity.  The name of the clan describes the origin of its members. The significance and the acceptance of the clan name is of great importance to its members.

Above the clan stands the king (Hompa) or the queen (vaHompa). King and Queen are determined by heritage and as traditional leaders they play an important political and social role in the life of the Kavango until today.

The matrilineal line constitutes the real social groupings. A Lineage consists of men and women, but only descendants of the female line count. Thus it can happen that children have a closer relationship to their uncle (the brother of their mother) than to their father.

The Mbunza fishing in the OkavangoThe Mbunza fishing in the Okavango

Religion

The Kavango believe in a mighty being named Karunga, a god that stands above all other creatures and things. In the Kavango’s believe Karunga was neither created nor born – he just exists.

The Kavango believe the Karunga manifests himself in the wind through which he demonstrates his omnipresence. The spirits of the ancestors assemble in the wind around Karunga and join him on all his journeys. Thunderstorms express Karungas anger. In former times when a hunter was followed by ever changing winds which chased all game away it was Karunga who worked against the hunter, acting on recommendation of the ancestors.

Still today the belief in Karunga and the spirits of the ancestors plays a fundamental role in the religion of the Kavangos. The belief in the ancestors’ spirit is the basis for regular prayers and sacrificing rituals for the well-being and protection of the family. The spirits play a major role when it comes to misfortune and illnesses and the healing thereof through diviners (Katemba) and medicine men (Ngana). 

The shrineSpeaking to the ancestors at the shrine

History of the Mbunza

Originally the Kavango settled at the big lakes in East Africa before they stared moving southwest until they reached Mashi at the upper Kwando in today’s Zambia.
During the 16th and 18th century they immigrated into the Kavango area. After an early political separation of the Mbukushu from the rest of the immigrants, Mbunza, Kwangali, Shambyu and Gciriku split at a later stage.

Today the majority of the Kavango live directly at the Okavango River. Some have settled further south at the edge of the Kalahari basin where they share living space with the Ju/‘Hoansi and the Khwe Bushmen.

As the Kavango area was one of the last areas influenced by the structuring programs of the former colonial rulers, a large part of the traditional culture of the Kavango survived until today. Presently the Mbunza still have a versatile culture including fishing, agriculture and woodcarving and they have a strong social network to pass on their traditional knowledge.

African drumsPreserving parts of the history by drumming and singing of old stories

Economic life of the Mbunza

The economic life of the Mbunza and all other Kavango is dominated by fishing, land cultivation and stock farming on a subsistence basis.

The traditional fishing methods were, according to oral tradition, introduced with the immigration and can be traced back to the people who once settled in the big lake area in Central Africa.   The traditional techniques have been adapted to the conditions of the Okavango area though.  The names of fish, water plants, Islands and other terms of the river ecology are much more differentiated than any other aspect of life of the Kavango.  The distinction between different kinds of fish traps and fish catching methods are versatile and even kids are able to identify many kinds of fish species. A lot of myths regarding the river exist and the importance of the moon as religious element in connection with the fish is emphasized upon in many rituals, festivities and medicinal dances.

Hunting used to play an important role in the past, but is prohibited today throughout the Kavango area. Nevertheless the Kavango are still familiar with the methods of hunting antelope, hippo, crocodile and even elephant. Today the cultivation of land and stockfarming are of much higher importance than hunting.

Pounding MahanguPounding Mahangu, the staple food of the Mbunza

Ethnological characteristics

Mbunza Ethnology

Juhoansi
Ju/'Hoansi
Fascinating hunter-gatherer culture of the San
Juhoansi01
Mafwe
Mafwe
Bantu culture of the Mafwe
Mafwe Living Museums
Damara
Damara
Hunter-Gatherer-Culture of the Damara
Damara Living Museum
Hunters
Ju/'Hoansi
Hunter-Gatherer Culture of the San
Hunter's Living Museum
Mbunza
Mbunza
Bantu culture of the Okavango river
mbunza01
Ovahimba
Ovahimba
Unqique half-nomadic Bantu culture
Ovahimba Intro
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Kind regards, Elizabeth,
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Do you have a question about the Mbunza Living Museum?

 

Have you read our FAQ already? Most of your questions will be answered there. If your question couldn't be answered you are welcome to write us an email to contact@lcfn.info

 

Kind regards, Sebron
Manager of the Mbunza Living Museum

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Manager of the Ovahimba Living Museum

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Manager of the Damara Living Museum

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Manager of the Ju/'Hoansi-San Living Museum

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Manager des Ju/'Hoansi-San Living Museum

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Juhoansi

The Living Museum of the Ju/'Hoansi is Namibias first Living Museum

  • Opening: 2004
  • Culture: Hunter-Gatherer Culture of the San
  • Highlights: "Action Day" - 4 hours interesting introduction into the culture of the San
  • Setup: Many gras huts in great nature, campsite and craftshop
Grashoek Apollo

"... Our Living Museums has 76 actors at the moment. All actors are very happy with the work they are doing. The aim of our Living Museum is to develop the Grashoek community. Its is also a school where the elders teach the young people about culture..."

Apollo, Manager of the Ju/'Hoansi-San Living Museum

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Mafwe

The Living Museum of the Mafwe in the Caprivi, situated under huge Baobab trees

  • Opening: 2008
  • Culture: Bantu culture of the Mafwe, influenced especially by fishing and farming
  • Highlights: "A day together with the Mafwe" - 4 hours of interactive program
  • Setup: Kraal, several clay huts, traditional kitchen, bush campsite & craftshop
Mafwe Elizabeth

"... The Mafwe Living Museum has 38 permanent workers and 12 students at the moment. We realized that we must share our culture and the Living Museum is the right tool to do that because the Mafwe people are happy and proud about their culture! ..."

Elizabeth Madima, Manager of the Mafwe Living Museum

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Damara

The Living Museum of the Damara close to Twyfelfontein, reconstruction of the "lost" culture of the Damara

  • Opening: 2010
  • Culture: Traditional culture of the Damara
  • Highlights: "Traditional Life" - 1 hour entertaining program
  • Setup: Kraal, several wooden huts, pharmacy, blacksmith, craftshop
Damara Hans

"... The Damara Living Museum has 30 actors and is called "Taotatide" in our language which means "we are proud of our culture". The actors are happy and very proud of their job. In the future we want to start a campsite and further improve our Living Museum..."

Hans-Bernhard, Manager of the Damara Living Museum

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LittleHunters

The Hunter's Living Museum - the only museum offering a real traditional hunt in the wilderness together with the San

  • Opening: 2010
  • Culture: Hunter-gatherer culture of the Ju/'Hoansi
  • Highlights: "3 Days in the wild" - several days intensive educational program
  • Setup: Several gras huts, campsite, craftshop
Hunters Ksamkxao

"... We have 25 actors in our museum. When the visitors come to see and understand our culture, the guests but also our children learn about the old traditions which is very important for our community. ..."

Tsamkxao, Manager of the Living Hunter's Museum

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Mbunza

The Living Museum of the Mbunza at Lake Samsitu, reconstructing the "old Africa"

  • Opening: 2012
  • Culture: Bantu culture with main focus on fishing
  • Highlights: "A Day together with the Mbunza" - 4 hours cultural program
  • Setup: Several traditional huts inside a large traditional village, kitchen, blacksmith, craft shop
Mbunza Sebron

"... Our Living Museum which has 25 people is a good tool to let people understand the value of our culture, where we come from and where we can go. We are proud of our culture and are happy to learn about people from all over the world who are visiting us. ..."

Sebron Ruben, Manager of the Mbunza Living Museum

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Ovahimba

The Living Museum of the Ovahimba north of Opuwo in the Kaokoveld

  • Opening: 2016
  • Culture: Unique semi-nomadic Bantu culture
  • Highlights: 5 hours "Spend a day with us" program
  • Setup: Large homestead including main hut, holy fire, life stock kraal
Ovahimba John

"... We have 32 actors in our museum. We were able to discover the old and lost traditional Ovahimba culture. The Living Museum is very succesful and the actors are benefitting from it directly and indirectly thorugh the selling of crafts very much ..."

John, Manager of the Ovahimba Living Museum

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Juhoansi

Das Lebende Museum der Ju/'Hoansi - Namibias erstes Lebendes Museum

  • Eröffnung: 2004
  • Kultur: Jäger- und Sammler-Kultur der San
  • Höhepunkte: "Action Day" - 4 Stunden intensives Kennenlernen der faszinierenden Kultur
  • Setup: Mehrere Grashütten, Campingplatz, Craftshop
Grashoek Apollo

"... Unser Lebendes Museum hat 76 Akteure im Moment. Alle Leute sind zufrieden mit der Arbeit im Museum. Das Ziel unseres Museums ist es, die Gemeinschaft in Grashoek zu entwickeln. Daneben ist es eine Schule, wo die Ältesten die Jungen unterrichten..."

Apollo, Manager des Lebenden Museums

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Mafwe

Das Lebende Museum der Mafwe im Caprivi unter Baobabbäumen

  • Eröffnung: 2008
  • Kultur: Fischerei- und Farmerkultur der Mafwe
  • Höhepunkte: "Ein Tag zusammen mit den Mafwe " - 4 Stunden interaktives Programm
  • Setup: Kraal, Mehrere traditionelle Lehmhütten, traditionelle Küche, Busch-Campingplatz, Craftshop
Mafwe Elizabeth

"... Das Mafwe Museum hat 38 permanent angestellte Aktuere und 12 Studenten im Moment. Wir haben verstanden, dass wir unsere traditionalle Kultur teilen müssen und das Lebende Museum ist der richtige Ansatz dafür, weil die Mafwe stolz auf ihre Kultur sind!..."

Elizabeth Madima, Manager des Mafwe Living Museum

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Damara

Das Lebende Museum der Damara bei Twyfelfontein - Rekonstruktion der "verlorenen" Damara Kultur

  • Eröffnung: 2010
  • Kultur: Jäger- und Sammlerkultur der Damara
  • Höhepunkte: "Traditionelles Leben" - 1 Stunde kurzweiliges Programm
  • Setup: Kraal, Mehrere traditionelle Hütten, Apotheke, Schmiede, Craftshop
Damara Hans

"... Das Damara Museum hat 30 Akteure. Wir nennen es "Taotatide" in unserer Sprache, was soviel bedeutet wie "Wir sind stolz auf unsere Kultur". Die Akteure sind glücklich und stolz auf ihre Arbeit. Für die Zukunft planen wir einen Campingplatz und weitere Verbesserungen im Museum..."

Hans-Bernhard, Manager des Damara Living Museum

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LittleHunters

Als einziges Museum bietet das Little Hunter's Museum die Möglichkeit zu einer traditionellen Jagd

  • Eröffnung: 2010
  • Kultur: Jäger- und Sammlerkultur der San
  • Höhepunkte: "3 Tage in der Wildnis" - mehrtägiges, intensives Kennenlern-Programm
  • Setup: Mehrere Grashütten, Campingplatz, Craftshop
Hunters Ksamkxao

"... Wir haben 25 Akteure in unserem Museum. Wenn die Besucher kommen, um unsere Kultur zu sehen und zu verstehen, lernen die Gäste über unsere alten Traditionen, aber auch unsere Kinder, was sehr wichtig für unsere Gemeinschaft ist. ..."

Tsamkxao, Manager des Living Hunter's Museum

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Mbunza

Das Lebende Museum der Mbunza am Samsitu See, das alte Afrika am Okavango rekonstruiert

  • Eröffnung: 2012
  • Kultur: Bantukultur mit Schwerpunkt Fischerei
  • Höhepunkte: "Ein Tag mit den Mbunza" - 4 Stunden Intensiv-Programm
  • Setup: Mehrere traditionelle Hütten im Kraal, Küche, Werkstätten, Schmiede, Craftshop
Mbunza Sebron

"... Unser Lebendes Museum, bei welchem 25 Leute arbeiten, ist eine gute Möglichkeit, den Besuchern den Wert unserer Kultur zu verdeutlichen, woher die Mbunza kommen und wohin sie gehen. Wir sind stolz auf unsere Kultur und auch glücklich etwas über die Besucher aus aller Welt zu lernen..."

Sebron Ruben, Manager des Mbunza Living Museum

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Ovahimba

Das Lebende Museum der Ovahimba nördlich von Opuwo

  • Eröffnung: 2016
  • Kultur: Einzigartige halbnomadische Bantukultur
  • Höhepunkte: 5 Stunden Ganztagsprogramm
  • Setup: Großes Gehöft inklusive Hauptfrauenhütte, Heiliges Feuer, Viehkraal
Ovahimba John

"... Wir haben 32 Akteure in unserem Museum. Wir haben es geschafft, die alte Ovahimbakultur wiederzubeleben. Das Lebende Museum ist sehr erfolgreich und die Akteure profitieren direkt und indirekt, zum Beispiel durch Schmuckverkauf..."

John, Manager des Ovahimba Living Museum

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