The Mbunza Living Museum - Take a trip into the Kavango with the Mbunza! - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

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The Mbunza Living Museum - Take a trip into the Kavango with the Mbunza!

Avatar of inke inke - 22. June 2017 - Culture, Tourism


A short walk – or drive – from Hakusembe River Lodge on the Okavango River takes you to a museum with a difference. The Mbunza Living Museum is an outdoor arena where visitors have a chance to learn about the fascinating traditions of the Mbunza, one of the five Kavango groups. 

Watch the Mbunza craft clay cattle, carve wato (dugout canoes), make rope from the Sansevieria plant, weave baskets and mats, pound mahangu (millet), crack Mangetti nuts (you can even have a taste!) and play wera in the sand. And, if that’s not enough to keep you occupied on the one-and-a-half-hour programme, they also share their bush medicine with you and show you their blacksmithing skills. Then, it’s the time for the river, the centre and livelihood of this river people, where you can take a short boat trip on the water and watch the women fishing with traditional woven cone-shaped traps. The programme ends with lively singing and dancing to rhythmic drumbeat.

You may just learn a few things with the Mbunza, such as: if a man is unable to weave a sleeping mat for his wife, his in-laws can send him packing and that a mixture of ground lucky beans and elephant dung masks your smell from predators like lion.

And, if you’re wondering about a ‘living museum’ then wonder no more. The concept was developed by the Living Culture Foundation Namibia (LCFN), which was established in 2006. The living museums provide the opportunity for several of Namibia’s indigenous cultural groups to earn an income, while reinforcing cultural values and educating the young. On the flipside, for the lucky traveller, it’s an opportunity to be introduced to age-old customs.

There are six living museums to date: the Living Museum of the Ju/’Hoansi-San at Grashoek (on the C44 to Tsumkwe); the Living Museum of the Mbunza, 14km west of Rundu (on the B10 towards Nkurenkuru); the Living Museum of the Mafwe - reached from the D3502 turn-off at Kongola; the Living Museum of the Damara near Twyfelfontein; the Little Hunter’s Museum, on the outskirts of Tsumkwe, which offers a three-day programme in the Nyae Nyae conservancy where traditional hunting is still allowed; and, the newest of them all, the Living Museum of the Ovahimba near Opuwo.

Don’t miss this vibrant introduction to the Kavango!

Ron Swilling

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