In 1904, the Herero and the Hottentots staged a massive uprising against the German colonial troops in South West Africa. It ended in a bloody massacre of over half the total Herero population at the battle of Waterberg. The few Herero that survived fled into the Kalahari, some crossing into what is now Botswana. The recently formed Herero People's Reparation Corporation, based in Washington, is currently suing the German government and two companies for £2.6 billion, with the case expected to be heard in the US courts during 2003.
Today, the Herero constitute the third largest ethnic group in Namibia, after the Owambo and Kavango – about 8% of the present population. Their language is Bantu based. In Botswana, they are a minority group inhabiting Ngamiland, south and west of the Okavango Delta.
Traditionally pastoralists, the Herero prefer raising cattle to growing crops – prestige and influence are dependent on the number of cattle possessed. Today, the majority of Namibian Hereros use their cattle-handling skills on commercial farms.
Herero women wear very distinctive long, flowing Victorian gowns and head-dresses. Multiple layers of petticoats made from over 12m of material give a voluminous look (two women walking side by side occupy the whole pavement!). Missionaries, who were appalled by the Hereros' semi-nakedness, introduced this style of dress in the 1800s. Now the Hereros continue to wear these heavy garments and it has become their traditional dress – though they will admit just how hot it is if asked.
Traditional Herero crafts include skin and leather products, basketry, jewellery and ornaments, and dolls in traditional Victorian-style dress, which are a very popular curio for visitors.