The Aawambo or Ambo people (endonyms Aawambo [Ndonga], Ovawambo [Kwanyama]) consist of a number of kindred Bantu ethnic groups which inhabit Owamboland in northern Namibia as well as the southernmost Angolan province Cunene. In Namibia, these are the AaNdonga, Ovakwanyama, Aakwambi, Aangandjera, Aambalantu, Ovaunda, Aakolonkadhi and Aakwaluudhi. In Angola, they are the Ovakwanyama, Aakafima, Evale and Aandonga. They are the largest ethnic group in Namibia.
The Ambo people migrated south from the upper regions of Zambezi and currently make up the greatest population in Namibia. The reason that they settled in the area where they now live was for the rich soil that is scattered around the Owamboland. The Ambo population is overall roughly 1,500,000.
The Ambo are part of the greater Bantu family. They speak Oshiwambo, which includes the Oshikwanyama, Oshingandjera, Oshindonga and other dialects
In recent times, most Aawambo consider themselves Lutheran. Finnish missionaries arrived in Owamboland in the 1870s and replaced most of the traditional beliefs with Christian traditions, but a few traditions still carry on. As a result of the missionaries, almost all Aawambo people wear Western-style clothes and listen to Western-style music. They still have traditional dancing that involves drumming (Oshiwambo folk music). Most weddings are a combination of Christian beliefs and Aawambo traditions.
The traditional home is built as a group of huts surrounded by a fence of large vertical poles. Some families also build a Western-style cement block building within the home. Each hut generally has a different purpose, such as a Ondjugo, storeroom, or Elugo, kitchen. Most families collect water from a nearby public water well or tap.
Most families have a large plot of land, and their primary crop is millet, which is made into a thick Oshimbombo. They also grow beans, watermelons, squash, and sorghum. Most households own a few goats and cattle, and occasionally a few pigs. It is the job of the young men to attend to the goats and cattle, taking them to find grazing areas during the day, and bringing them back to the home in the evening. Most houses have chickens, which roam freely. Like most farms, dogs and cats are common pets. When the rains come, the rivers to the north in Angola overflow and flood the area, bringing fish, birds, and frogs.
Traditionally, the Owambo people lived a life that was highly influenced by a combination of magic and religion. They not only believed in good and evil spirits but also they are influenced by missionaries and the majority are Lutheran or Catholic.
Beliefs among the Owambo people centre around their belief in Kalunga. For example, when a tribe member wants to enter the chief’s kraal, they must first remove their sandals. It is said that if this person does not remove their sandals it will bring death to one of the royal inmates and throw the kraal into mourning. Another belief deals with burning fire in the chief’s kraal. If the fire burns out, the chief and the tribe will disappear. An important ceremony takes place at the end of the harvest, where the entire community has a feast and celebrates.
Each tribe has a chief that is responsible for the tribe, although many have converted to running tribal affairs with a council of headmen. Members of the royal family of the Owamboland are known as aakwanekamba and only those who belong to this family by birth have a claim to chieftainship. Because descent is matrilineal, these relations must fall on the mother’s side. The chief’s own sons have no claim in the royal family. They grow up as regular members of the tribe.
Ovambo brew a traditional liquor called Ombike. It is distilled from fermented fruit mash and particularly popular in rural areas. The fruit to produce Ombike are collected from Makalani Palms, Jackal Berries, Buffalo Thorns, Bird Plumes and Cluster Figs. Ombike with additives like sugar is brewed and consumed in urban areas. This liquor is then called omangelengele, it is more potent and sometimes poisonous. New Era, one of the English daily newspapers, reported that even clothes, shoes, and tyres can be ingredients of omangelengele.