Today there is no set pattern for settlements and an individual may pick any site in his tribal area. There is also no fixed rule for arranging huts within a cluster of homesteads and the size and composition depends on the status and wealth of a man. Once the site for a new settlement has been chosen and permission to settle has been granted by the headman, construction work can commence.
Once the vertical hut poles (mautwana) of mupani- or muhonono-wood have been planted in the ground, the horizontally running beams (mabalelo) are attached to them. The spaces between the mautwana and mabalelo are closed up with clay and dung by women. Clay sections of a hut have to be renewed every year during the dry season. All houses and huts except the kitchens have a door.
The roof structure is also constructed from mupani- or muhonono-poles. The grass utilized for thatching is generally cut during the end of summer. The thatching is done by starting from the bottom and working all around the roof frame before moving upwards. The grass in the bottom layer is placed with its base facing down, in the next layer the base of the grass is facing upwards, while the third layer is placed as the first and the fourth layer as the second. The thatched hut roofs of the MaKololo, described during the 1850s, as projecting far beyond the walls and giving some excellent shade have become extremely rare today. Houses can stand for more than 15 years, but the grass has to be replaced once every five to six years.
While the men commence with the building of the houses, the women construct the high reed fence (lapa) surrounding the homestead, which was apparently also introduced to the area by the MaKololo. The reeds for the fence consisting of lobolobo-reeds are cut at the rivers and transported to the homestead with a sleigh. Besides reeds, sorghum or millet stalks can also be used for constructing the lapa-fence. Once the reed fence is constructed, the courtyard is prepared from clay.
The cooking fire is always kept in the courtyard in front of the kitchen hut and all cooking takes place there; only on rainy days it is done in the kitchen. Every wife has her own kitchen and all the equipment is kept in the kitchen. Formerly people used fire sticks for kindling a fire.
Chicken coops (sitandwe pl.: zitandwe) are placed just outside the lapa enclosure of a homestead. They are mounted on stands and sometimes two or more zitandwe are found on one stand.
Grain storage bins (sishete pl.: zishete) are also built in close proximity to the homestead. They consist of a cylindrical structure made of grass or lobolobo-reeds, which rests on a low platform. In exceptional cases zishete are plastered with clay.
This post is made possible courtesy of Gondwana Collection in Namibia from their regular Stamps & Stories collection - for more information Read here.