≠Akhoe Hai//om

According to the official census there were 7,506 Hai//om speakers living in northern Namibia in 1991 but as with all figures on people and languages of low reputation this count is not very reliable. Many speakers of ≠Akhoe Hai//om have maintained an unusual cultural profile as hunter-gatherers. Striking features include healing trance dances, hunting magic and intensive usage of wild plant and insect food, a unique kinship and naming system, frequent storytelling, and the use of a landscape-term system for spatial orientation. The proposed project aims to document the ≠Akhoe Hai//om language as it is still spoken in these particular cultural contexts.


  1. Rapid social change. The pressure of surrounding Oshiwambo, Nama/Damara, English and Afrikaans speaking groups increasingly threatens the above mentioned cultural practices.
  2. Oppression and discrimination. The speakers of ≠Akhoe Hai//om suffered greatly from colonial violence. Recent survey data testifies that after independence threats have continued.
  3. Political powerlessness.
  4. Economic poverty.
  5. Lack of mother tongue education

Team in the field

Going through the electronic database
Going through the electronic database with ≠Akhoe Hai//om speakers. Maais Goboses, Oahetamas Goboses, and Thomas Widlok

Transcribing digitalized video-tapes
Transcribing digitalized video-tapes of everyday conversation. /Khomxa Khoeda Junior Primary School at Mangetti-West (/Gomais). From left to right: Gertie Hoymann, Linda Uises, Mariane Kheimses, Christian Rapold

Group looking at camera
Making use of video technology, for research, for education…
…and for entertainment

Woman with her boy
≠Akhoe Hai//om mother tongue education is restricted to the family sphere (!Hares Horetsus with her youngest boy).

Research team and car
Research team on the move in ≠Akhoe Hai//om country. From left: Thomas Widlok, Abakub //Gam//gaeb, Christian Rapold