Damara Songs, Stories and Traditions


Haiseb tales are just some of the many folktales told by the Damara. Haiseb tales are about the Old Time. To better contextualize these stories I am including  a story about Idab. Like Haiseb, Idab is a fol hero but he comes from recent times.

ǂKhani Xues, Haiseb and old time

ǂKhani Xues is a Damara grandmother living near Uis on her farm |aema !khao

“Haiseb was a clever man, like a jackal. The ǂgaub (wooden sifting bowl) was from Haiseb’s time. People tell the story of how Haiseb was a naughty man fighting with the people. Most people never saw him.

Haiseb had an idea to pull a person down into the bore hole.”

ǂKhani Xues talked about the sun in ways that suggested some sort of association between Haiseb and the primal elements of life, if not God. ǂKhani Xues referred to the Sun as God, 

​”You don’t call God by his name, you call him ||Hai Sorris.

John Taniseb translated this as ‘rising sun’ or ‘big star’. ǂKhani Xues continued to explain that ‘you must stand up [get up] before sunrise so that the clean wind can touch you. The sunrise wind is a dirty wind’. This theme of dirty and clean winds is very common.

ǂKhani Xues described that Tsui ||Goab is a valley.

Video 1. ǂKhani Xues talks about the loss of Damara traditions. She attributes this ti the arrival of the white people and working with white people not allowing enough time to gather food from nature.

Video 2. Using the ‘boat’ – a traditional way of sifting different sized seeds from the soil and other debris.


Video 1. Question: Everybody knows that do they [ referring to the Haiseb hole dance]

“This young generation..that’s why early the granny say you was the person was sent by the God to get our background message so that this can be passed by [to] the young people. They never know nothing. This is just indirect fighting with the white people, then the culture of the old people was passed away because they were working with the white people. So we were offered the job from the white people you start to cook now your food in the house so when you go to collect your food by nature.

These children were born under the white people culture. The grandparents of this granny was telling the stories about the grandparents but not this boat story this was telling now. All this boat story was telling by her grandparents.

But white people totally destroyed the peoples lives. Whenthe white people come they change peoples lives. I worked only on my farm and when I go out in the nature to hunt only the animal or look for the food becuase there is no time. It is how people are slowly losing their culture. That is now from the old parents what they can use from nature.  1825 the German colonial was coming here from that ages the black poeple who were here started to work with the white people…