Kinship, Ritual and Landscape among the Himba of Northwest Namibia

  • Michael Bollig
Part of the Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation book series (STHE, volume 4)


The anthropology of landscape has dealt mainly with the intricate relationships amongst memory, identities, and power and how these relations are engraved physically and intellectually in space. Many accounts have delineated how hegemonic discourses and counterdiscourses have reflected upon the conceptualisation of landscape in local cultural settings and during specific periods of time. This contribution develops an older anthropological thread in that it seeks to link kinship and landscape. The northern Namibian Himba inscribe genealogies into the landscape. In commemorative rituals they visit the graves of ancestors and ritually link these graves back to their homesteads. By commemorating their ancestors they re-create a network of places mirroring their selective presentation of genealogies. This chapter takes the ethnography of such a commemorative ritual as a starting point and explores how kinship is linked to space through ritual. In conclusion it discusses why actors perform such rituals: the attempt to stabilise local hierarchies and the quest for landrights in a situation characterised by uncertainty and conflict are identified as major motives for the ritual.


Collective Memory Cattle Herd Loud Call Ritual Activity South African Government 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Bollig
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Cultural and Social AnthropologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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