Northern Namibia is the home to Ovambo tribes. These tribes constitute the traditional Uukwaluudhi Kingdom.
Ovambo tribes are part of the Aawambo people who reside in central-northern Namibia and southern Angola. They originate from the area around the Great Lakes in East Africa.
These tribes migrated around the year 1550. Four of these groups went to the Kunene Province in southern Angola, while eight of them populated North Namibia. Most Namibians come from these tribes.
Ovambo tribes are Kwanyama, Ndonga, Kwambi, Nandyala, Kwaluudhi, and Mbalantu, and the smaller ones are Nkolonkadhi and Unda. The Owambo languages are Bantu in origin.
The capital of the Uukwaluudhi kingdom is Tsandi. This settlement lies some 30 km south of Outapi. Two kilometers from Tsandi is the location of the Uukwaluudhi Royal Homestead.
The homestead is mainly in a typical Ovambo style, but in 1978, a contemporary part for the king and his family was added. A mopane palisade surrounds the palace. It is large enough to be the home of the king, his family, and for guests. His palace, Ombala, reflects his wealth and status in the community.
In the group of eight tribes mentioned above, Uukwaluudhi is one of four that still has a king. The twelfth king is tatekulu, which means father, Josia Shikongo Taapopi. King Mwaala, his uncle, reigned for 50 years before him.
He adopted king Josia because a traditional royal line runs in the maternal side of the family. In this manner, King Mawaala made him a successor. That is why the latest king did not have to fight for the throne.
After the brick buildings were added and the royal family moved to them, the rest of the homestead was opened for visitors. Soon enough, it became a tourist attraction.
In front of the homestead is a large front yard. It is a reception area for people that visit the kingdom. The palisade surrounding the property is a massive wooden fence, and same wooden barriers are around each of the 36 segments of the homestead.
Moreover, each section has a precise purpose. Labyrinth of pathways and corridors once served to fend off enemies and wild animal attacks. Additionally, you can recognize the main entrance as a Y-shaped place in the barrier. There is also a step made of branches.
There is a section for the boys of the kingdom with separate storage huts — also, there is a particular cabin for warriors where they have meetings before battles or raids on cattle. On the other hand, Ooshoto or reception areas have a central fireplace and tree trunks that serve as benches. Separated are sections for junior and senior headmen and for the king and queen.
A part called the king’s shade is exceptionally beautiful. It has bird-plum trees with small, sweet eembe fruit. It is a calm and peaceful shelter from the hot Namibian sun. Beside it are the
King’s sleeping quarters. Air circulation for the hut is provided with gaps in the wood.
Part of the estate is a traditional clinic and a storehouse with large corn baskets — eshisha. Also, a milk section is separated and supplied with a large container made of calabash, which they use to boil milk.
A traditional kitchen is very picturesque and has a smart layout. The cooking pot hangs over the fire, and clay pots are on the walls. On the other end are mortars fixed to the floor with large wooden pestles.
Next is a main receiving area. It is a part of the household where royalty would welcome visitors. It is equally crucial for meeting the official beginning of the marula season or other prominent occasions. The guests to this area are introduced to how to greet the king.
The proper way consists of moving forward on your knees, at the same time shaking hands while holding the right elbow with the left hand. Adequate greeting of the king also includes the appropriate name “tate kulu.”
And if one can’t kneel, a head nod with the handshake and greeting will suffice. In the same cases, for women, a knee-bend curtsey would be applied.
Looking at this maze of huts and corridors surrounded with thick palisades, you’d be quite grateful to have a guide to accompany you. By following someone who knows the corridors well, you’d be back at the reception area beside the main entrance in no time. In the vicinity of the homestead, and even in the courtyard itself, herds of various animals.The area is also ornate with proud and dazzling sunflowers growing against the trees’ palisade.
All in all, a visit to the Uukwaluudhi Royal Homestead in Tsandi awards you with an extraordinary cultural experience. Although, the times have changed, and the queen drives a car and has a job as a teacher at the local school now, this visit will bring you a taste of the old times. Royal residence with its customs, beliefs, composition, and the inclusion of the Ovambo-speaking people into it overwhelms.
So if you want to feel that history, learn from the first hand, and apprehend that simple, but unique living style, you will not pass out on the opportunity to tour to the Royal Homestead.