These Afrikaans-speaking people are descendants of indigenous Hottentot women and the Dutch settlers who first arrived at the Cape in the early 17th century. The original 'coloured' or 'bastard' children found themselves rejected by both the white and the black communities in the Cape, so keeping together they relocated themselves further north away from the colonialists. Proudly calling themselves 'Basters', they set up farming communities and developed their own distinct social and cultural structures.
During the 1860s, white settlers began to push into these areas so, to avoid confrontation, the Basters crossed the Orange River in 1868 and moved northwards once again. Trying to keep out of the way of the warring Hereros and Namas, they founded Rehoboth in 1871 and set up their own system of government under a Kaptein (headman) and a Volksraad (legislative council). Their support of the German colonial troops during the tribal uprisings brought them later protection and privileges.
Demands for self-rule and independence were repressed throughout this century until the Rehoboth Gebiet was granted the status of an independent state in the 1970s. This move by the South African administration was made with the aim of reinforcing racial divisions amongst the non-whites – rather like in the South African 'independent homelands'.
Today, Namibia's Basters still have a strong sense of identity and make up just under 3% of the population. Most still live and work as stock or crop farmers in the good cattle-grazing land around Rehoboth. Their traditional crafts include products like karosses (blankets), rugs, wall-hangings and cushion covers made of cured skins.