There’s no better way to learn about another culture than from its people. When we stayed at Hakusembe River Lodge on the Kavango River in Namibia, about 15km from Rundu, the Mbunza Living Museum was within spitting distance, so we took a walk there to explore.
The Mbunza tribe get their name from fish, which is a major part of their diet. In their social structure you’re related by descent through your mother’s line rather than your father’s. They believe in a supreme being called Karunga and that the spirits of the ancestors gather in the wind around Karunga.
The sinewy Sebron began by showing us the ‘gathering fire’ where everyone gets together to sit, except old people who might have their own shelter at their hut. The fire is always kept going, allowed to go out only when a chief dies. It’s relit when a new chief is chosen.
The shade shelter at the gathering fire is where people do their work. One man was moulding sculptures of cows from clay. Because the Mbunza were primarily fishermen, they had no real cows, so these clay cows were used to pay lobola or fines. ‘One may take five to ten minutes to make depending on the man’s skill,’ he said.
Singing and dancing
Our tour ended with song and dance in the shade of a clearing next to the lake. I don’t know what they were singing about, but I do know that songs were used to pass stories down through the generations. Three drummers provided the primary rhythm, with the high voices of the women and deeper bass notes of the men as counterpoint.
- A short interactive tour of 1.5 hours cost us N$150 per person.
- The Mbunza Living Museum is part of Open Africa’s Four Rivers Route in northern Namibia. Open Africa helps set up routes to give travellers authentic experiences at the same time as providing income for local people in rural Africa. We found their website very useful when we planned our two-month trip around Namibia. It helped us to find accommodation and activities in areas off the beaten track and it was great to know that we were spending our money where it could directly make a difference.
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