7 Snake Species found in Namibia

The Namibian environment can be divided into 5 biomes: the Namib desert (1), that occurs like a narrow strip along the Atlantic ocean coast. It is an ancient desert, composed of high sand dunes near the coast and gravel plains inland. There are scattered grass and specialized succulent plants with stunted Acacia trees in the rivers courses. The offshore Benguela Current is responsible for the cold fogs that may extend up to over 50 kilometres inland. The Noma bushy Karoo shrubland (2) is a typical semi-desert habitat which occurs inland of the Namib desert. It has poor and rocky soils with dwarf woody scrub. The succulent Karoo (3) covers the extreme South-western area between the South African border. It has many succulent plants adapted to the contrast between the hot and dry summers and the cool and rainy winters. 99 The generic arid savannah biome (4) is represented by mopane woodland in the North-western area and by thorn Acacia woodland in the central area. Both are open grassy habitats adapted to low rainfall and cold dry winters. The moist savannah (5) covers the eastern regions of higher rainfall and warmer winters (featured image – read below).

Leptotyphlops occidentalis (Family Leptothyphlopidae): It has a slender cylindrical body of light grey-brown colour. It is a small burrowing snake that lives in arid savannah and desert, where it burrows underground and it catches ants and termites. It is possible to find it from Kaokoland to the southern area – within the reptile habitat, it is accepted that this species is endemic of Namibia.

Leptotyphlops occidentalis – Photo from Flickr

Psammophis (Family Colubridae): Many snakes belonging to Psammophis genus live in Namibia: they are commonly called ‘Sand Snakes’, ‘Grass Snakes’ or ‘Whip Snakes’. All have the head distinct from the neck and large eyes with two grooved fangs at the back of the eye. They are fast diurnal snakes and they mainly eat lizards, agamas and small rodents. They are common in arid scrubland and savannah. In spite of this speed, it was possible to recognize them through the many typical brown stripes along the body. For this reason, it is likely to think that one sees the Western Sand Snake (Psammophis trigrammus) or the Stripe-bellied Sand Snake (Psammophis subtaeniatus) or the Leopard Grass Snake (Psammophis brevirostris) in the northern area: precisely at Damaraland and Kaokoland. It is not excluded that they could be also the Striped Skaapsteker (Psammophylax tritaeniatus), which is present in that area. Very often the other two Psammophis in the central and southern area, exactly near Keetmanshoop and along the Namib Naukluft Park, often and most probably misinterpreted with the Karoo Sand Snake (Psammophis notostictus) or the Namib Sand Snake.

Psammophis trigrammus – Photo from University Bonn

Naja nivea (Family Elapidae): The Cape Cobra is indeed very venomous elopid (neurotoxic venom), which lives especially in central and southern Namibia. It is considered endemic of the Southern African Subcontinent. Its habitats are mainly the Noma bushy Karoo shrubland, the thorn Acacia woodland and the Succulent Karoo. It is a slender snake with the variable colouration of the body, generally, which has its body of o light yellow colour. The ‘speckled’ phase of this specific snake is very beautiful and it is characterized by a bright golden-brown colour with a lot of darker flecks.

Naja nivea – Photo from Fotocommunity

Naja nigricollis woodi (Family Elapidae): Also in the South of Namibia, the Black Spitting Cobra. It is widespread in the same zone as the Cape Cobra: it likes the rocky and arid Nama bushy Karoo shrubland. As with the Cape cobra, it is endemic of the Southern African subcontinent. Its venom is less dangerous than the Cape’s but the Black Spitting Cobra can readily spit it. It is uniformly black on all of the body.

Naja nigricollis woodi – Photo from Pinterest

Naja nigricollis nigricincta (Family Elapidae): Often encountered in the northern region, a Western Barred Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis nigricincta). This Snake is generally very fast and often hides under a heap of big rocks near roads or mountain hiking trails. They are very often a light colour with a lot of typical black bands on the body. This particular pattern attribute gives this Cobra the name of ‘zebra snake’. As with Naja nigricollis woodi, the Western Barred Spitting Cobra is also able to spit its venom, it is not as dangerous as that of the Cape Cobra. The Western Barred Spitting Cobra is also endemic of the Southern African subcontinent.

Naja nigricollis nigricincta – Photo from Flickr

At Naja Etosha annulifera National anchietae Park, often found in the Okaukuejo Restcamp (Etosha National Park). The Snouted Cobra or Angolan Cobra (Naja annulifera anchietae): once it was called Naja haje annulifera but now it is separated from the species Naja haje and it is recognized as Naja annulifera. Only the subspecies Naja annulifera anchietae lives in Namibia, where it is quite common in mopane woodland, in thorn acacia bushveld and in moist savannah. It is also called the Western Snouted Cobra: the subspecies Naja annulifera lives in the great eastern region that includes South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Notwithstanding these changes of its technical names, it is still known with the most common name of Egyptian Cobra. In every case, this beautiful cobra is characterized by two morphs – the ‘typical’ one has the body of a yellow-grey colour, while the ‘banded’ one has some yellowish bands along its body.

Naja annulifera anchietae – Photo from Goruma

Aspidelaps lubricus lubricus (Family Elapidae): In Namibia, there are three different subspecies of Coral Snake: Aspidelaps lubricus occurs in the southern area, Aspidelaps lubricus infuscatus in the central area and Aspidelaps lubricus cowlesi in the extreme North-western area hear Angola. All have a body of a reddish-orange colour with some black crossbands. They like the Nama bushy Karoo shrubland and the succulent Karoo habitats. It is still not clear if their venom is fatal for humans or not.

Aspidelaps lubricus lubricus – Photo from VenomLand     

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Snakebite Help-Guide

Zimbabwean Stone Sculptures

The Zimbabwean stone sculpture is a singular phenomenon in the context of African Art. A similar type of art it has not met in any other African country. This art is also singular in that it practically from scratch, ie from any tradition was born and after about thirty years ago to dissolve into the anonymity of mass production for the market again began folklore. Today it is probably right to say that it is no longer the art direction is. There were the special circumstances of the history of the country who have contributed to the rise and decline. In the50s of last century, Southern Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was then known, to the stage of the comparatively liberal multiracial experiment, at least in cultural terms.

In the capital Harare, a university and a National Gallery were established. The first director of the new National Gallery was the Briton Frank McEwen. His role in the development of the “new direction” cannot be overestimated. He had learned in the thirties in Paris, which impulses from the ethnic African art to modern European painting and sculpture emanated. His interest was to go to the roots themselves, seek out the creative powers of Africa and promote the positive atmosphere in Rhodesia, the development of domestic, as he thought unadulterated art.

It’s not to say so, that it has no plastic in front on the floor, where traditions of Zimbabwe. But the view of African art history of the last two thousand years shows that entire southern Africa compared with West and Central Africa was poor in artefacts. He was settled too thin. It lacked the great kingdom, the power of the ritual art of the past represented in the rule. Only in Great Zimbabwe, in the realm of Monomutapa, there had been cult figures made of a stone eagle. But their sculptural tradition has long gone down with the Empire. That these figures are cited in the context of contemporary stone sculpture, again and again, has to do with the need of the new government to strengthen the cultural self-esteem of the nation. Above all, the wrong job to do on the tradition with the marketing needs of the gallery. The “typically African” sells better.

Life-Size fighting Warriors carved from Cobalt Stone (by Alibaba.com)

Significantly stimulated and encouraged by McEwen developed in the mid-sixties, a scene of young talented African Stone Sculpture. Among the first Yoram Mariga, John Takawira, Henry Munyaradzi, Nicholas and Joseph Mukomberanwa NdandarikaThey were all later, the leaders of the new movement. McEwen asked the young artists to make art for art’s sake and to be inspired by their inner images and the myths of her people, the Shona. The concept of the Shona Sculpture was born. In 1965 the first work was shown abroad. 1968, works were shown in an exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern ArtThe special exhibition at the Musée Rodin in Paris was international recognition. In their motives, these early works were quite African. In anthropomorphic figures, they often symbolized the belief in the original unity of man and animal. It played an important mythical eagle and monkey role. In its style, these works were often “archaic” or “primitive” and recalled the art of the Aztecs, Mayas and Eskimos. However, it would be wrong to speak of a unified style.

Zimbabwean Stone Sculptures (by Pieter Swillens)

Instead, over the years developed the important artists own personal styles. Henry Munyaradzis minimalist design of the human head reminiscent of Paul Klee. Nicholas Mukomberanwas work seemed influenced by Cubism. When John Takawira could see a resolution expressive of the contour. Without a doubt, the artists were exposed to Western influences. The National Gallery has shown works by Picasso and Henry Moore and other important artists of European modernism, but also ethnic African art. It is pointless to argue about whether the sculptures, which at that time were, were typically African or not. Anyway, they were not traditional in the strict sense, nor really modern. They were something special, a synthesis, an experiment, just the Zimbabwean stone sculpture.

Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture Abstract (from InsideHalton.com)

When Frank McEwen was the genuine inspiration from the wealth of collective unconscious, he refrained from the artist. Instead, he shielded them against the temptations was already emerging from the commercialization, poor work rejected as “airport art” (they were actually destroyed) and shifted his Workshop School to the country. In 1965 the white settler colony of Southern Rhodesia declared its unilateral independence from the British crown. The international sanctions imposed against the country then, not only economically isolated Southern Rhodesia but also culturally. But should it prove necessary for the new art as a blessing? It allowed the young artists the chance of a slow maturation on the right track. The growing reputation of the “Shona Sculpture” and the beginnings of interest from collectors offered the best sculptors of a sufficient material basis in order to establish themselves as professional artists living not only for their art but for them too.

Which matured at the time, could be harvested after the country gained independence in 1980. The eighties were the culmination of the movement but also the beginning of its decline. Numerous exhibitions abroad made known its most important representatives and encouraged them to experiment and to choose for their work larger size. Surfaces were trimmed raw. With new tools, especially harder chisels could be harder stones such as Spring Stone, lepidolite or Verdite editing and design easier breakthroughs. Young artists were joined to the movement. had studied Tapfuma Gutsa of Art in London, working in mixed media and often combined in his elegant works of stone and wood. Brighton Sango stone sculptures were abstract. They remembered nothing more in Africa. The term “Shona Sculpture” was unpopular with art connoisseurs as well as some artists. It almost seemed as if the Zimbabwean sculpture is alive enough to develop.

“The five-headed family” (Pinterest)

But after independence, also uses the problems. It was becoming obvious that the Zimbabwean stone sculpture was neither traditional nor typical African and not anchored in the country. She had neither public nor critical feedback from the local press. Even the wealthy new elite was not interested in that which spawned their most important artistic representatives abroad. The major annual exhibitions of the National Gallery were called but National Heritage Exhibition, but it lacked the artistic traditions, which were invoked in the name of the new nation. The quality of the pieces took off year after year, what the curators obviously did not prevent, to increase the quantity of the exhibits. Just as the market works. In the capital, were settling down numerous galleries, offering everything that increased the tastes of the tourists, whose numbers from year to year, in line. Because prices and sales were always started more young Zimbabweans who had no talent to copy what would sell. The result was a regrettable decline in quality, while damage to the reputation of the whole movement. In the nineties, this trend continued to the airport art. With the ominous decline of the economy, the plight of the African population grew in the cities as well as in the country. Those who did not work trying to get in the informal sector to stay afloat. On the way, flooding the mass-produced pieces that were at best craftsmen, generally cheaper but kitsch, the market and undermined completely, which had developed by then.

Today, a review is possible on the Zimbabwean sculpture. The leading artists of the early years nearly all have died. A marked generation of younger artists whose work is of artistic quality and creativity would be, could not grow under the described circumstances. The time was too short and the movement is too small, as this could have caused what constitutes generally the art of a country: continuity and change, individuality, while many references to the cultural and social environment. Too weak, the response in our own society, and was too much demand from commercial interests and tourism needs to be determined. The Zimbabwean situation has equalized in this respect, the other African countries.

More valuable now seem in retrospect, the work of the most important representative of the early period. Their quality has moved the name of Zimbabwean stone sculpture in the world in the first place. The originality and uniqueness of artists such as Nicolas Mukomberanwa, John and Henry Munyaradzi Takawira are undisputed, even if their work is based on a syncretism, on an ambivalent fusion of African tradition and European modernity, which gives the impression both of the familiar as the stranger. Today, as the movement has lost almost all their contours, such works usually come only from private collections on the market.

The African Mbira/Kalimba

The mbira has been an important instrument in sub-Saharan Africa and has played a part in African culture for 800 years. Although it can be a solo instrument, it is more commonly used as an accompaniment to singers, musicians and dancers. It is not uncommon for the native African instruments to allow solo harmonization, but typically, harmony in African music serves as a variation to the theme being performed. Many versions of the mbira exist with tribes creating distinctive performance styles and names for the instrument. They vary widely in appearance, size, materials, and tuning from the smallest 6-note models of the Kalahari Bushmen to the sophisticated 33-note instrument found in Zimbabwe (intro photo showing a traditional Mbira relic from northern Namibia, taken by Manfred Werner).

The name mbira is known throughout much of Africa, but regionally, the name mbira is more commonly used in Zimbabwe, while the name Kalimba is used in Kenya, the name ikembe is used in Rhuanda, and the name “likembe” is used in the Congo, while other names are bit less common such as sanza, sansa, marimba, marimbula, there are more generic names of finger harp, gourd piano, and thumb piano that are often used in the west. The mbira is also known as the thumb piano because one’s thumbs are used to pluck (or more accurately depress and release) the metal strips (tongues or lamellas) that sound particular notes. It is common for two mbiras to play together where one covers the melodic accompaniment of the singer while the other plays the bass line (or bourdon). Some mbiras have few tongues and others have many. Some of the more sophisticated instruments have two sets of tongues for one performer to play melody and harmony, or melody and bass line on the same instrument. In the 1920s, Hugh Tracey came from England to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to help his older brother run a tobacco farm. He became fascinated by the local music culture and created the Kalimba, a version of the mbira. Introduced by Tracy in the early 1960s, Kalimba was the registered trademark for his diatonic instrument that soon became popular around the world.

Above a selection of beautiful Mbira Instruments (taken from Wikipedia)

The word kalimba literally means little music. It was well suited for Western music and made it easy for the performer to play harmony using both thumbs. Today, versions of this African instrument can be found in most parts of the world, with wide use in parts of Asia, the Middle East, North and South America. Much of this popularity is due to the work of Hugh Tracy, but the simplicity of the instrument’s design and construction and the relative ease by which one can learn to play it has added to its wide acceptance throughout the world.

+ Physical Description:

The basic mbira is a simple soundboard or sound box with wooden (typically cane) or metal keys or tongues (called lamellas) attached on the top. The sound box is typically made from a calabash (gourd) or wood, and often the metal keys (tongues) were made from old spoon handles, bicycle spokes or spring wire that were cut and hammered to the desired shape. The keys (tongues) are plucked with the thumbs, or with combinations of thumbs and fingers. The keys usually consist of 6 to 33 metal keys (tongues) mounted across two bars (or wooden dowels) at one end attached to the sound box with another wooden dowel holding them in place. The bar closest to the sound hole serves as a bridge, the other to provide a means for the dowel to hold the keys (tongues) in place. The free ends of the keys (tongues) are positioned at different lengths to produce the variety of pitches. The length of the vibrating end of the keys (tongues) determines the pitch (a shorter key or tongue produces a higher pitch, and a longer key or tongue produces a lower pitch). Many of the mbiras with sound boxes have holes drilled in the sides of the sound box. When the instrument is held in both hands with the thumbs plucking the tongues, the index fingers on each side can cover and uncover these side holes to change the resonance and can provide a tremolo effect. The mbira often has several rows of keys (tongues) positioned like multiple manuals (or rows of keys) on a keyboard. The lower manual (typically longer tongues and lower pitched notes) often represent the men’s voices, while the upper manual (typically shorter tongues with higher pitched notes) represent the young men’s voices, or are split with one side of the upper manual representing the young men’s voices and the other representing the women’s voices. The tuning and arrangement of the tongues are varied.

Various modern Mbira’s (Kalimbas) – from Kalimba Magic

     + Sound Properties:

The mbira produces a haunting, fluid percussive sound that is considered tranquil and enchanting. Since you can play either simultaneously or alternate between both thumbs, harmonic and rhythmic effects are possible. An important feature of mbira music is its cyclical nature, with each new repetition of a theme varying slightly from the last and incorporate numerous interwoven melodies, with contrasting and syncopated rhythms. Mbira music lends itself to rhythmic and melodic diversity and entails a great deal of improvisation, qualities common to African traditional music. The compositions usually consist of a main melodic part (kushaura), and a secondary melodic part (kutsinhira). Special attention should be paid to the combination of quadruple (4/4) and triple 3/4 meters within the rhythmic structure of the music. Most compositions can be thought of as a sequence of four 12-beat phrases. Those 12 beats can be divided into three groups of four or four groups of three. While the Mbira can be an effective solo instrument, it is rarely found by itself at traditional Shona religious ceremonies. It is ordinarily accompanied by hosho players, handclapping, and singing. The persistent array of complex rhythms and variations of the melodies provides a rich source of sounds that captivates listeners. Many effects can be employed by plucking up or down on the keys (tongues). The sound can also be altered by wrapping the tongues with wire or adding a mirliton device. This adds an additional buzzing or humming character to the sound of the instrument which is an important sound in many of the tribal cultures. Often, snail shells or metal bottle caps are often attached to the soundboard or the sound box to create or enhance the rich buzzing sound. The buzzing is thought to clear the mind and allow the listener to focus totally on the music. These buzzing effects are not commonly used on the diatonic versions of the mbira or outside of the African tribal cultures. Most recordings do not include these effects as they tend to favour the pure sounds of the instrument. Mbira tunings are numerous, and usage depends on personal preference. Mbira players usually settle on a particular tuning and use it consistently. Some of the more common Mbira tunings are Nyamaropa (click for YouTube Video), Gandanga Dongonda, Gandanga (or Mavembe), Nyuchi, Dambatsoko, Katsanzaira, Mande, Nemakonde, Nyamaropa Dongonda, Samsengere, and Saungweme (below a short YouTube clip of an ethnic family in Zimbabwe playing multiple Mbira’s).

   + Links:

• Build your own Mbira (Kalimba) instructions with photos

• Build your own electrical Mbira (Kalimba) instructions with photos

• Build your own Mbira (Kalimba) instructions with photos (pdf. document – 1 page)

• Hugh Tracey collection of 22 various african musical downloads including various african traditional musical Instruments (going back up to the year 1952)


46 photo-collection of Namibian Shebeens

For the individual(s) who don’t know the term “shebeen”, let us help you clarify the term before enjoying the photo collection below. Shebeens, mostly located in traditional townships, was started as an alternative to pubs and bars which during apartheid times, black Africans were barred from. Originally shebeens operated illegally, selling home-brewed alcohol and were also meeting places for activists of the struggle against apartheid. As time evolved they also sold commercial beer, spirits, brandy and whiskey. Most of these are operated by elderly people, predominantly women. Shebeen queens and kings share their living space with their customers, meaning there are no designated areas in the house for patrons.

Children raised in these households often go to bed late or can’t study because of the noise generated by patrons, despite the fact that most hardcore shebeens don’t play loud music. A typical shebeen would sell about two to four cases of alcohol on a good day. The customers are normally regulars who are often given booze on credit. These are the operations that would normally fall outside the ambit of the existing legislation within most southern African countries.

The internationally accepted definition of culture by Unesco states that it includes “the whole complex of distinctive, spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterise a society or a social group. Culture includes arts, letters, modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs.” In general, culture is the essence of a given people’s way of life as represented by their multifaceted creations, accomplishments and aspirations

According to www.everyculture.com  the culture of Namibia is characterised by a people who speak Bantu languages like Oshiwambo and Otjiherero as their first language. Others speak Khoisan languages (Nama/Damara and various Bushman languages), while a smaller percentage are native speakers of Indo-European languages like Afrikaans and English.

Like most southern African countries Namibia boasts of a variety of architectural styles in addition to Western buildings. But one can also note the increase in dwellings made of metal sheets or concrete blocks with metal roofs, a style also seen in some urban neighbourhoods.

Should you be educated about this country you will be familiar by now that Namibia was originally inhabited by nomadic hunters, gatherers, and pastoralists and one would note the lack of vegetables in the Namibian diet. So with, important occasions are marked by the slaughter of cattle or goats, and the consumption of meat, home-brewed beer, purchased beverages and other foods. Thus, emphasises the fact that throughout Namibia, drinking is another part of life. No wonder the capital Windhoek is the home of a popular lager named after the city.

A drive to Katutura Township, a populous location 15 km away from the city centre of Windhoek, one will find shebeens located at every corner or in the yard of every other house in Genesisstraat (a street in Namibia’s populous Katutura Township). Sadly, this specific street is at random days unfortunately littered by broken bottles. So if you as a visitor get the change to explore these locations with a rental vehicle, make sure to book vehicle insurance which includes your 4×4 tyres (for just in case).

In Namibia, shebeens operate under the Liquor Act of 1988. Shebeen owners are required to get an annual licence but it was apparent through a community radio current affairs programme that most of them are illegal. But nevertheless, illegal or not, many Shebeen’s all over Namibia will always welcome you and provide a friendly atmosphere in a manner which only Namibian’s can. One thing is certain when it comes to creativity to naming a Shebeen, Africans truly take the lead. Especially when naming the outlet – as seen below. Although many Shebeens look “run-down” from the outside, the inside will often leave you very surprised. Beautiful interior decoration in many Shebeens shows a style which is purely Original within its design and layout. The most beautiful Shebeens are often found very deep in some townships, which sadly are rarely seen by many international visitors. Namibian creativity is actually very well known and admired since the entire country is filled with very creative individuals which should be applauded and showcased to everyone wanting to experience it. Personally, I maintain an opinion that the “name-giving” of every outlet of each Shebeen is to be celebrated in the form of understanding presenting uniqueness and originality which can be only found in southern Africa and especially Namibia. One thing is for certain, Namibian Shebeens have some of the most “catchy” Names which draw the attention of potential customers (disregard of location) hence giving some international Pub’s, Tavern’s or Hang-Out’s a run for its money.

Hard to see on this one: THE DOG IS HOT BAR (spelling missing on Photo Image)
Photo: WAKA WAKA Bar
Photo: TRIPLE N. JOINT SHEBEEN (looks like northern Namibia (?) )
Photo: SPECIAL OFFER (apparently sponsored by MTC – Mobile Cellphone Provider Enterprise)
Photo: Socialising inside a Shebeen (unknown)
Photo: Traditional Herero Lady inside a Shebeen, shop or Kuka-Shop (unknown)
Photo: OUR LUCKY BAR (looks like northern Namibia(?) )
Photo: EASY LIFE BAR (not known if sponsored by MTC (?) )
Photo: COOL & COOL
Photo: REALITY BAR $ GROCCERIES (love the spelling layout)

Photo: SIMBIRA SHEBEEN (love this one)
Photo: Unknown Shebeen Interior
Photo: Single Quater Food Outlet in Windhoek (a Windhoek Food Outlet, not a traditional Shebeen as such… click for more details)
Photo: EMBANDI SHEBEEN (most probably in northern Namibia)
Photo: PUT MORE FIRE SHEBEEN (located in Rundu – northern Namibia)
Photo: HOT STUFF BAR (all you Designers will love this one – check out the Fonts used)
Photo: MEME’S INN (abrv. “MEME” is Oshiwambo standing for Lady, Old Lady, older Lady, Woman in charge or a form of respectful Term used to introduce yourself humbally towards an African Female)
Photo: BACK OF THE MOON (my personal favourite – located in Mondesa, Swakopmund)
Photo: BAFANA-BAFANA SHEBEEN (look up Bafana-Bafana on the Web for more Info – African Soccer)
Photo: VANDAKONGELA. SHEBEEN (would love to find out the location)
Photo: SADDAM HUSSEIN SHOPPING CENTRE (would love to know the location)

Photo: Township Tour (P.S. it seem as if this photo has been taken in RSA)


     + Word of Note: Photo origin and rights include Vagabond Adventures, Flickr, The Mad Traveller, Gondwana Collection, Carsten ten Brink, Pinterest, Chameleon Safari’s, Peace Corps Namibia Blog, FivePrime, Namibia Tourism Board and a couple unknown sources.

     + Shebeen Links:

• Namibian culture of Shebeens

• The Namibian Newspaper Article

The beauty behind African Storytelling

Firstly, to everyone engaging and reading this specific Blog Post, I would love to wish you all a blessed and beautiful European New Year’s Eve 2018-2019. Please don’t drink and drive because spending time in Prison over New Year’s Eve is never a simple encounter. So, let’s have a look at the following. What in general, are oral traditions? Oral traditions are messages that are transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages may be passed down through speech or song and may take the form of folktales and fables, epic histories and narrations, proverbs or sayings, and songs. Oral Traditions make it possible for a society to pass knowledge across generations without writing. They help people make sense of the world and are used to teach children and adults about important aspects of their culture. Many international cultures obviously pass history down from one generation to the next, in order to prevent past mistakes from recurring. But the most beautiful storytelling has to come from pure African tribes (disregard of location). African (or Bantu) elder tribe individuals tell some of the most stunning and exciting Story’s imaginable. In my personal opinion based on my past experiences, the most charming storytelling always ALWAYS came from true African (Bantu) elders. (image by YouNeek Studios)

     + The art of storytelling

There is a rich tradition throughout Africa of oral storytelling. Although written history existed for centuries in Africa, most written memories (history) has been captured in Arabic, hence the majority of people did not read or write in Arabic. So the transmission of knowledge, history and experience in generally “West Africa” was mainly through the oral tradition and performance rather than on written texts. Oral traditions guide social and human morals, giving people a sense of place and purpose. There is often a lesson or a value to instal, and the transmission of wisdom to children is a community responsibility. Parents, grandparents, and relatives take part in the process of passing down the knowledge of culture and history. Storytelling provides entertainment, develops the imagination, and teaches important lessons about everyday life.






Above: Traditional African Storytelling (photo from Pinterest)

A storyteller’s tools are not just words, but gestures, singing, facial expressions, body movements and acting to make stories memorable and interesting. Sometimes masks and costumes are used via dance or performance to help with the folklore understanding or to support a spiritual ritual undertaking. Many African storytellers perform epics that can be hours or even days long that relate history and genealogy, battles and political uprisings of a community. They use riddles, proverbs and myths to educate and entertain. Storytelling is an important shared event with people sitting together, listening and even participating in accounts of past deeds, beliefs, taboos, and myths. Gifted or well-known storytellers often repeat the story with the same words and same expressions in each performance as they travel. They also add new material to an old story to make it more interesting or meaningful to different audiences.







Above: Traditional African Storytelling combined with a song and dance performance (photo from Face2Face Africa)

Oral storytelling emphasizes the repetition of the language and rhythm, which are two of its most important characteristics. Storytellers often repeat words, phrases, refrains, sounds, whole lines and even stanzas. The use of repetition helps the audience remember the chorus and allows them to join in with the storyteller. Most… or almost all African storytellers pays close attention to the beat and how the words sound. Using short phrases makes the stories easier to understand and recall from memory. When audiences who are familiar with the stories actively participate in their telling, they feel a sense of belonging to the community. This is true with almost all African Tribes, no matter if Oshiwambo, Bushman (San), Zulu, Xhosa, Swahili or many, many others.

For instance, the Griot (pronounced “gree-OH”) is a storyteller and oral historian in West African culture. He is the social memory of the community and the holder of the word. The Griot is the keeper of facts and important events of his time. It is his responsibility to pass this knowledge on to future generations, as well as that of past times passed down to him by his ancestors.







Above: Baba the Storyteller in West Africa (photo by Sierra Madre Weekly)

Originally the Griots were court musicians who sang at weddings, naming ceremonies, and religious celebrations. They later evolved into advisors to nobility and messengers to the community. They sing songs of praise for their leaders and recount the great deeds of ancestors and the history of the society. Griots are also advisors, ambassadors, negotiators, mediators and advocates of the king to his allies and noble families. They are rewarded for their service to individuals and the community. Their fee varies and ranges from a few coins or a blanket to more substantial payments depending on the audience and the skill and popularity of the storyteller. In World Affairs Council of Houston page 2 West Africa, Griots have been practising their craft for hundreds of years. Griots are described as “the all-seeing, all-knowing eyes of society.” There is a spiritual and ethical dimension to their performances and it is believed that special forces are released through the spoken or musical part of their performance.

     + What is African Storytelling?







The photo above from Getty Images – Artistic Development offering African Storytelling with Princess Ayo Durodola

Traditionally, African people are rooted in oral cultures and traditions and as a result, they have esteemed good stories and vibrant storytellers (Ngugi wa Thiong’o 1986, Vambe. 2001, Chinyowa 2004, Vambe 2004). Ancient writing traditions do exist on the African continent, but most Africans today, as in the past, are primarily oral peoples and their art forms and stories are oral rather than in written form (Achebe 1958, Chinyowa 2001). Since olden times, storytelling within the African culture has been a way of passing on traditions, codes, values of acceptable behaviour, as well as upholding and preserving good social order. Before writing and reading were developed in ancient Africa, Africans used storytelling as the most form of preserving their history, traditional culture and ritual ceremonies (Chavunduka 1994, Vambe. 2001). The tradition of African storytelling is one of the oldest in African culture, across the continent (Vambe. 2001).

     + Our favourite African proverbs:

Proverbs are an illustration of a vivid and fundamental truth. In our opinion, globally the most mesmerising proverbs come from elderly African’s (Bantu) and South American Indian Tribes.

• It takes a village to raise a child.

• When a king has good counsellors, his reign is peaceful.

• No matter how long the night, the day is sure to come.

• One falsehood spoils a thousand truths.

• Do not call the forest that shelters you a jungle.

• When you follow in the path of your father, you learn to walk like him.

• It is best to bind up the finger before it is cut.

• The fool speaks, the wise man listens.

• Do not say the first thing that comes to your mind.

• A little rain each day will fill the rivers to overflowing.

• Cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile won’t eat you.

• Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse.

• Do not follow the path. Go where there is no path to begin a trail.

     + In conclusion

As writing this Post, I honestly believe the African Tribal elders truly understand and have mastered the delicate art of true storytelling. The character trait of the Storyteller most probably has been created due to the lack of Television, Internet, Radio or similar. Hence the artistic nature which creates the beauty while sitting down to tell a story (history) to the young ones around. I honestly urge every national or international visitor to engage in a conversation with a tribal elder (disregard of location) and openly listen to a story which is being shared with you as a person. Should you listen with an open mind one will notice that the story told comes with a form of “bare-honesty” and first-hand experience which so often isn’t present in Hollywood Movies or the like. The true African individuals just tell the most enchanting storeys. Some sad, some romantic, some dangerous, some thrilling but definitely always open and honest. To be bluntly honest, from almost all the many awesome people which I have met in my life, it is very straight-forward: “African elders make the best Storytellers on mother earth”. Without any doubt!  But nevertheless, we would like to wish everyone celebrating the European New Years Eve a safe and sound evening. Take care of yourself and looking forward to seeing you in 2019. 🙂

     + Extra download(s) and link(s):

• The immigration calender (pdf.)

• An African Storybook Guide for children (pdf.) 

• Visit Africanstorybook.org for diverse children-books/comics for download

• New Years Eve in Africa

Gemstones in Namibia

Namibia is generally well known for its quality diamonds and the history around these precious stones. However, if you love your Gemstones, semi-Gemstones and Minerals than this post is for you. Namibia offers a whole variety of different Gemstones found throughout this beautiful country. Famous for its exceptional variety in precious and semi-precious stones, Namibia hosts such world-renowned mineral localities as Spitzkoppe, Erongo and Brandberg, amongst others, which are being visited by many professional and hobby collectors each year. But while we Namibians are proud to share this heritage with those who appreciate it, there are certain rules and regulations to be followed, when exporting minerals (more details below). Image shows the worlds biggest Quartz Crystal which is up for display and viewing at the Kristall Galerie in Swakopmund. (see Map below for directions)

Claims for semi-precious stones are reserved for Namibian nationals, many of whom make a living by digging for gemstones, amongst which topaz, amethyst, tourmaline, aquamarine and garnet are the most common, and selling them at diverse roadside stalls or outlets. Collectors’ specimens are also sold by a number of formal stores in Swakopmund and Windhoek.

Private mineral collectors and researchers need a permit from the Ministry of Mines and Energy for all material collected or purchased, while the export of mineral specimens for commercial purposes, in addition, requires a permit from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (it is advisable to allow two working days for the issuing of the permit). The collecting and export of any fossils, including fossilized wood, and meteorites are prohibited by law and regarded as theft and is not treated lightly (more insight on our past Blog Post here).

Gemstone mining operations vary according to size and complexity. Small shallow deposits are generally mined by a few people with buckets, prybars, shovels and picks. Methods of drilling, blasting, and timbering may or may not be employed. Mechanized hauling and hoisting are done only at the largest mines. The difficulty behind such mining efforts remains to the fact that one cannot simply blast the earth to extract most of these beautiful minerals hence beautiful specimens will shatter. Utmost value of eg. Tourmaline is evaluated by size, clarity and crystal flawlessness (!), meaning that a stone which doesn’t show any internal cracks or tears are considered a prime specimen. Via blasting the earth the chances are very high for the crystals to develop cracks and tears inside of them. Hence the extraction is a very labour intensive one. One often finds small mineral sellers wanting to sell some inferior samples along the road. These samples are great as a souvenir and not really intended for polishing or jewellery. But if you come across one, support them. These people invest a lot of labour inside smaller private mines in order to get out inferior specimens at the best of their ability without the financial backing of diverse enterprises. Have a look at their Hand-Palms, they are rough (because of the nature of the work involved)!!!

Image above clearly shows a Tourmaline with internal cracks and rips (flawed). However, still being a beautiful specimen such crystals never reach a high-value Crystal market value and most of the time will be passed off as a “lower class” specimen. (image by Classic Crystals)

Some semi-precious stones are produced as by-products of other mining operation s. For example, Beryl, tourmaline, spodumene, and gem quartz may be coproducts of mica, feldspar, quartz, or other pegmatite minerals. Diamonds may be recovered from gold dredges, turquoise from copper mines, agate and petrified wood from gravel pits, and gem garnet from abrasive garnet mines and mills.

Gemstones are used primarily for ornaments or diverse decoration elements. There are, however, some industrial applications for gemstone material. For instance, industrial processes requiring clean homogeneous stones use low-quality diamond. Tourmaline is used in laboratories to demonstrate the polarization of light, to measure the compressibility of fluids, and to measure high pressures. Ruby is well known to provide as a medium for medical equipment used to catalyse the accuracy of blood-count accuracy. Agate is made into mortar and pestle sets, knife edges for balances, textile rollers, and spatulas. Gemstones are used as jewel bearings in timing devices, gauges, meters, and other applications requiring precision elements.

     + So how does the Industry compare the value and quality of Minerals and Gemstones?

Natural resources pose particular governance challenges, and many of the considerations that apply to other commodities are equally salient in the gemstone sector. Yet gemstones are also distinguished by several unique qualities that have implications for their management, including:

High unit value. The average rough diamond is worth approximately 15 times more than gold per unit weight. This difference is significantly higher when gold is compared against “gem grade” stones (those deemed of suitable quality to be made into jewellery).

Non-physical attributes. A stone’s pedigree or other subjective qualities may influence perceptions of its value; for example, a Kashmiri sapphire may fetch a higher price than a Malagasy sapphire with similar characteristics. Markets also increasingly favour stones that are “responsibly sourced,” or produced in accordance with certain environmental, social and governance standards.

Variable unit value. The price of a given type of gemstone reflects its perceived quality, whereas most minerals are priced based on quantity and purity. In 2013, for example, high-quality Zambian emeralds marketed by Gemfields were worth 19 times more by weight, on average, than low-quality Zambian emeralds.

Unique characteristics. While the quality of certain gemstones is assessed on the basis of the “four C’s” (referring to color, clarity, cut and carat weight), a range of other attributes may affect market prices, such as the presence of inclusions (materials that become trapped inside a gemstone as it forms); also, heating is commonly used to improve colour but also clarity, or quality. Many of these qualities are not easily discernable without a degree of specialist knowledge.

Complex processing. “Beneficiation,” the process by which rough stones are transformed into polished gems and jewellery, requires a greater degree of craftsmanship and specialization than processes for other minerals, such as smelting. A fine or poor cut, respectively, may significantly increase or reduce the potential price of a gemstone

Variable unit value. The price of a given type of gemstone reflects its perceived quality, whereas most minerals are priced based on quantity and purity. In 2013, for example, high-quality Zambian emeralds marketed by Gemfields were worth 19 times more by weight, on average, than low-quality Zambian emeralds.

     + Here is our list with a few selected Minerals which are being mined/found in Namibia:

• Vanadinite, Otavi Mountains (image by Mindat.org)

• A meteorite from the Gibeon Meteorite Swarm (image by the Namibian Ministry of Mines and Energy)

• Gypsum “rose”, Namib Desert (image by Nature Friend Safaris)

• Monazite, Eureka Carbonatite (image by Dakota Matrix Minerals)

• Smithsonite, Tsumeb (image by Marin Mineral)

• Beryl, a variety of Aquamarine from the Erongo Mountains (image by John Betts)

• Dioptase, Omaue Mine, Kaokoland (image by John Betts)

• Elbaite (also referred to as Watermelon Tourmaline), Otjua Mine, near Karibib (image by High Living Luxury)

• Jeremejevite (often confused with blue Tourmaline – image by e-Rocks Mineral Auction)

• Mandarine garnet, Kaokoveld (image from Pinterest)

• Amethyst, Brandberg (image by Mine Rat Minerals)

• Andradite, a variety of Demantoid, Erongo (image from Pinterest)

• Fe-oxide stained quartz, Orange River (image by the Namibian Ministry of Mines and Energy)

Quartz crystal with tourmaline needles, Gamsberg (image from the Namibian Ministry of Mines and Energy) 

• Azurite (image from the Crystal Dictionary)

• Malachite from Tsumeb Mine (image from Shelter Rock Minerals)

     + Our Book recommendation on Gemstones and Minerals inside Namibia:


This one is the second edition which comes with stunning images. A newly updated book on the minerals and varied location in Namibia by three well-versed authors who understand the requirements of mineral collectors and also catering for the wider interest. A great second bit at the Namibian cherry packed full of mineral pictures and site information, with 900 minerals and gems and 1600 pictures to see. A must-have updated literature in regards to Namibian Geology. It is in no way a cheap Book but definitely well worth it, if you are one of the individuals deeply interested enthusiast’s of all things Namibian Minerals and Gemstones. Needless to say, these authors went all out on this specific publication, informational, graphical and more (hence the price). Also, if you want to build your general knowledge on all things regarding the Topic, then do yourself a favour and get this one. Barely any other publication will give you such a beautiful insight which you are seeking for, guaranteed.

A view from the inside of the Book can be found here! 

Available Online here (if in Stock)!

The first edition is available here from Amazon (if in Stock – Paperback, 2007)

“This book follows two years after the release of Namibia: Minerals & Localities, Volume 1. This book shows more exclusive and breathtaking specimens and rare minerals from many private collections and important museums all around the world. This book is a one-of-a-kind reference book that gives you all you the information you need to know about the newest mineralogical finds and the most sought-after rarities. The over 800 Namibian minerals and gemstones are listed from A to Z. This second volume contains an enormous amount of new mineral photographs and many up-to-date references to localities. Many of the 1600 pictures have never been published before and were taken by top photographers like Jeff Scovil, Joe Budd, Olaf Medenbach, Matthias Reinhardt, John Schneider and Rainer Bode.” (taken from Book Introduction)

Author: Ludi von Bezing, Rainer Bode, Steffen Jahn
Category: Namibian Geology
ISBN: ISBN-13: 9783942588195
Date Released: September 2016
Price (incl. VAT): N$ 2,056.50 (depending on the location of purchase)
Format: 664 pages, ~1600 colour photos, illustrations and maps

     + See our past Blog Posts with similar Topic Information:
• All about Namibia’s Meteorites
• The history of Komanskop ( Namibia’s diamond Ghost City)