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Damaraland

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The middle part of the German colony, German Southwest Africa, between 19° and 23° S. lat., 14° and 20° long. Moving from the Atlantic coast towards the interior the traveller meets first a sand-belt of forty-two miles, stripped of all vegetation and covered with gigantic sand-dunes; then a strip of desert land about ninety miles broad, with rugged, bare mountains and wide, barren sand-plains. Then follows Hereroland proper, which rises to a height of 7000 feet, and in which mountain ranges and solitary peaks succeed long-drawn valleys, deep ravines and high plateaux. Towards the north and east, this mountainous district passes over into the undulating plain of the Omaheke and the Kalahari Desert, which is crossed by dry river-beds and is sparsely inhabited. In general, the country suffers from want of rain; it is arid, and fit for cattle-raising only; agriculture is hardly possible except where the land is artificially irrigated. The population is composed of the Hill Damara and the Herero; besides these there are also some 4000 Kaffirs, Bastards, and Nama, and 1500 Christian Ovambo. The Hill Damara, or Klip Kaffirs, about 20,000 in numbers, were the original possessors of the country, but were robbed of their pastures and flocks by the invading Herero. Down to our times they lived among the Herero as slaves, without rights and protection, poor and despised; at the uprising of the Herero they naturally sided with the German Government and thereby improved their lot considerably.

The Herero, or Ovaherero, are a tribe of the Bantu, and immigrated, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, from the north-east into Damaraland. Their bodies are well built, their skin is chocolate-coloured, their hair wavy and jet black. The clothing of the men consists of an apron, made of the skin of sheep por goats, and wound around the hips; that of the women comprises a leather cap with a veil, a long apron, and a hide thrown over the back; numerous rings of iron and pearls adorn their arms and legs, and a number of pearl strings encircle their necks. The Herero are boastful, vain, avaricious, beggarly, given to lying and cheating, dishonest, and cruel and ferocious in their hatred; on the other hand, they are also hospitable, possess a high sense of honour, and great love for their parents. Their religion consists in an ancestral cult, especially of the deceased chiefs of each tribe, and a gruesome belief in ghosts and specters, to whom they frequently offer sacrifices. True they recognize a God of heaven and earth, but they do no worship him; they think of him, but they do not thank him. Previous to the insurrection of 1904-1906, which almost destroyed them, they were divided into tribes; these were ruled by chiefs, who were at the same time the tribal priests. In the fights with the Nama, all the Herero had acknowledged one commander-in-chief, Maherero Kajamuaha. After his death, in 1890, the German Government chose his younger son, Samuel Maherero, as supreme chief, passing by the rightful heir. Generally speaking, monogamy prevails among the Herero, though the chiefs and the wealthier tribesmen often have several wives.

The acquisition of the present German Southwest Africa by Germany was begun in the year 1883. The Bremen merchant Lüderitz acquired the bay of Angra Pequena and a few strips of land from the native chiefs; in 1884 this territory was placed under the protection of the German Empire. The heir to the rights of Lüderitz, the German Colonial Company for Southwest Africa, obtained more land. As Maherero, the supreme chief of the Herero, had formerly sided with the English against the Germans, he was forced, on 21 October, 1885, to conclude a treaty of protection and amity with Germany, and to acknowledge the German supremacy. As this treaty was in many regards obscure, many quarrels arose between the German Government and the Herero chiefs; small uprisings were, however, easily quelled. The love of freedom, predominant in the Herero, numerous injustices committed by the whites, extortions on the part of the white traders, and other causes finally led to the great insurrection of the Herero in the beginning of 1904, which soon spread throughout the colony. It took almost three years to subdue the sedition and great sacrifices of men and money had to be made. For the nation of the Herero, who before had numbered between 80,000 and 100,000, the revolt resulted in almost complete annihilation. The Herero who had been taken prisoners were accommodated in camps, where hundreds of them were carried off by virulent diseases. After peace was made, the remnant was handed over to officials, farmers, business and private houses, as servants.

Missions in Damaraland were first begun by Protestants. Since 1844 the Rheinidch-evangelische Missionsgesellschaft laboured in Hereroland without interruption. Before the insurrection it numbered 15 stations with 23 missionaries, 46 schools with 875 boys and 1182 girls, and counted 8300 coloured Christians. The Fathers of the Holy Ghost were the first Catholic missionaries who, at the end of the seventies, made the attempt to found a mission among the Herero; owing to the intolerance of the Protestants, however, they were compelled to abandon the work in 1881 (cf. Katholische Missionen, Freiburg, 1882, pp, 107-111). It was only when German rule had been definitely established, that the Catholic mission was at liberty to work in this field. On 1 August, 1892, the Prefecture Apostolic of Cimbebasia Inferior was erected, and under it was placed the whole of Damaraland and Ovamboland; in 1896 the territory was given in charge of the German Oblates of Mary Immaculate. But by the Colonial Government they were forbidden to work among the Ovambo, Hereros, and Kaffirs, and even after they had been put on the same legal footing with the Protestants they still had to fight against odds. All obstacles were finally removed in September, 1905. The Prefecture Apostolic in 1908 numbered 9 stations with 22 fathers and 18 brothers (all Oblates); 10 sisters (Franciscan Sisters from Nonnenwerth); there are 850 white, 210 blacks Catholics; 9 churches or chapels, 10 schools with 236 pupils, 1 trade school with 14 pupils, 1 high school for boys, 1 academy for girls, 1 orphan asylum, and 2 hospitals.


Sources

SCHINZ, Deutsch-Sudwestafrika (Oldenburg 1891); FRANCOIS, Nama and Damara (Margdeburg, 1896); DOVE, Deutsch-Sudwestafrika (Gotha, 1896; Berlin, 1903); SCHWABE, Mit Schwert und pfug in Deutsch-Sudwestafrika (Berlin, 1904); PAUL, Dei Missin in unseren Kolonien (Dresden, 1905); MEYER, Wirtschafit und Recht der Herero (Berlin, 1905); IRLE, Dei Herero (Gutersloh, 1906); LEUTWEIN, Eif Jahre Gouverneur Misin Deutsch-Sudwestafrika (Berlin, 1906); Dei Katholischen Mission (Freiburg. 1906-07), XXXV, 176-183; Jahresberichle uber dei Entwicklung der deutschen Schutzgbielke (Berlin).

About this page

APA citation. Lins, J. (1908). Damaraland. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04610b.htm

MLA citation. Lins, Joseph. "Damaraland." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04610b.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Isabel T. Montoya.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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