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Ovambo (Namibia)

Last modified: 2011-01-15 by bruce berry
Keywords: namibia | ovambo | bantustan |
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[flag of Ovambo] image by Mark Sensen

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Explanation of Ovamboland's flag

Ovamboland was the first of the "Homelands" in South West Africa to acquire its own symbols of sovereignty. A mace for the Legislative Council, arms and flag were subsequently formally adopted.
The design of the flag of Ovambo is set out in section 2 of the Ovambo Flag Act, 1973 which reads as follows:

"The Ovambo Flag shall be a flag consisting of three horizontal stripes of equal width from top to bottom of blue, white and olive-green, on which there shall appear, in the centre of the white stripe, seven vertical olive-green staves of equal measurement symmetrically arranged.
The width of the Ovambo flag shall be equal to two-thirds of its length. The width of each vertical stave shall be equal to one-twentieth of the length of the flag.
The distance between the vertical stave mutually and between the vertical staves and the blue and olive-green stripes shall be equal to half the width of the stave".
The blue in the flag is said the represent the infinity of the sky, the white stands for peace and the green for agriculture. There are seven Ovambo tribes: the Kwanyma, Ndonga, Kwambi, Ngandjera, Mbalantu, Kwaluudi and Kolonkathi-Eunda - hence the seven staves in the flag.

Ovambo was re-incorporated into Namibia at independence on 21 March 1990 and as such this flag is no longer in use.
Bruce Berry, 25 November 1998

History of Ovamboland

In terms of the League of Nations' mandate for what was then South West Africa, responsibility for the well-being and development of the indigenous population was vested in the Administrator of South West Africa, who represented the Government of South Africa in the territory.  Initially tribal authorities had been created and these played an increasing role in the administration of their own affairs.  After 1948 the South African Government viewed the creation of self-governing states based on the boundaries of the major ethnic groups - both within South Africa and in the territory of South West Africa for which it was responsible in terms of the League of Nations mandate - as a means of fulfilling the political aspirations of the indigenous population. 

Legislation in the form of the Development of Self-Government for Native Nations in South West Africa Act was passed in 1968 which allowed for the creation of " or areas ... be reserved and set apart for the exclusive use and occupation by an native nation ...".  Over the next 10 years Legislative Councils were established in terms of the Act which also allowed for the creation of coats of arms and flags for these "homelands".  These coats of arms were for use on official correspondence, documents and publications in place of the South African or South West African arms while section 3 of each of the Flag Acts specified that the respective Homeland flag "shall be flown side by side with the National Flag of the Republic (of South Africa) at the buildings where the Legislative Council holds its sessions, at the principal administrative office and all main district offices of the Government of ... and at such places ... as the Government may determine".   Thus, as with the Homelands in South Africa, a dual flag arrangement would apply.

Homeland Symbols were designed for the Owambo (Arms and flag), Kavango (Arms and flag), Caprivi (Arms and flag), Damaraland (Arms and proposed flag), Administration for Tswanas (Arms only), and the Administration for Namas (Arms only).

Following the independence of Namibia in 1990, the ethnically based Homeland system was dismantled and these symbols are no longer used.
Bruce Berry, 25 Nov 1998