In the valleys of the Richtersveld desert you can still find the Nama settlements where you can see their traditional houses.
These constructions are called OMS Haru in the local language, and translated into Afrikaans as matjieshuisies; they are huts of a round shape with a dome, they are realized using branches and are covered with mats of woven reeds.
They were originally designed for the nomadic lifestyle of these people, in fact, these homes are light and easy to dismantle and then rebuild, in a new position when the pastures of an area become scarce.
These huts are also perfect for the warm weather and the typical dry land inhabited by the Nama, the woven mats allow the passage of light and ventilation and, in the case of rare rainy days, the stems of the porous mats lining the hut absorb water and swelling, keep the inside of the cabin dry, while in winter, the interior walls are covered with animal skins for added insulation.
Both women and men participate in the construction of these huts, making use of the building skills passed down by their ancestors; particularly involved in the collection of materials, the construction of the mats and the building up of the cabins, a careful and meticulous process that is recognized as a true Art of the Nama.
Women prepare the mats using the river reeds, collect them, make them dry in the sun, cut to the desired length and then woven into mats using a handmade rope.
Men collect the branches, remove the thorns and sometimes remove the bark; subsequently pass them on the fire to fold and bend them into the desired shape and then return them to the ground for a couple of days to impart the proper curvature.
At this point all the elements are ready to build the hut, the branches are inserted into holes drilled into the ground and the circular base is created, the branches are then put together in a honeycomb shape and then, on this structure, they are carefully positioned and bound using between 20 and 40 mats per hut.
These huts then form the Nama camp that in the past was shaped like a big circle and the village was closed with a big fence of thorny branches with two entrances, one to the North and one to the South; within this fence along its circumference, the huts were positioned.
In the large open space in the center the livestock was amassed during the night, there are no stockyards except for special pens for calves and lambs, in general the animals are located right in front of the owner's cabin.
The aesthetic beauty and the natural form of the Nama huts can be seen near the town of Springbok, Steinkopf and in most of the smaller villages in the Richtersveld.
However, in some parts of Namakwa they are now constructed with an assortment of more modern materials, such as large pieces of plastic that do not have the charm that natural materials instill in traditional huts.

Life, tradition and culture of Nama people

  • Nama huts and villages
  • Nama origins
  • Nama wedding ritual
  • Nama religion and legends
  • Nama history