Otjiherero Praises of Places

Collective Memory Embedded in Landscape and the Aesthetic Sense of a Pastoral People
  • J.U. Kavari
  • Laura E Bleckmann
Part of the Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation book series (STHE, volume 4)


This chapter allows insight into the intricate relation between landscape and memory. The om i stan d u – this is the Otjiherero term for these praises – are part of Ovaherero, Ovahimba, and Ovatjimba oral traditions. They are highly valued among the pastoral people of Kaokoland in northwestern Namibia for their aesthetic as well as for their historical and political content (see Figure 18.1). Otjiherero praises allude to the collective memory of the community and enshrine what the community has estimated is of importance to remember. As such they constitute an essential part of oral history. They refer to historic events and persons and link these to specific places and landscape features. They further condense information on genealogies and resources and although on the surface they address relations between people and land, the praises have strong political connotations through their reference to the past tenure system. Last but not least they provide insight into the perceptions and the aesthetic sense of a pastoral people. With a special focus on praises of places this chapter aims, in the first instance to illuminate the special structure of the om i stan d u and to highlight their content. A second aim is to draw upon the representation of landscape features as well as on the poetry in such praises. How are landscape and other features remembered and represented by Kaokoland’s pastoralists? Furthermore, the ways in which memory is linked with places and landscape features are discussed. How far is the recited collective memory spatialised and in which way is the reference to spatialised collective memory of importance for recent debates in the Otjiherero speaking community of Kaokoland?


Umbilical Cord Landscape Feature Collective Memory Oral History Aesthetic Sense 
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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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • J.U. Kavari
    • 1
  • Laura E Bleckmann
  1. 1.University of NamibiaNamibiaWindhoek

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