Orlaam, Oorlammers, Oerlams, Orlamse Hottentots
Jan Jonker Afrikaner (1785–1861), an early Orlam
Regions with significant populations
 Namibia,  South Africa
Afrikaans, Oorlams Creole, English, Khoekhoe
Related ethnic groups
Afrikaners, Nama, Coloureds, Griqua

The Oorlam or Orlam people (also known as Orlaam, Oorlammers, Oerlams, or Orlamse Hottentots) are a subtribe of the Nama people, largely assimilated after their migration from the Cape Colony (today, part of South Africa) to Namaqualand and Damaraland (now in Namibia).

Oorlam clans were originally formed from mixed-race descendants of indigenous Khoikhoi, Europeans and slaves from Mozambique, Madagascar, India and Indonesia. Similar to the other Afrikaans-speaking group at the time, the Trekboers, Oorlam originally populated the frontiers of the infant Cape Colony, later living as semi-nomadic commandos of mounted gunmen. Also, like the Boers, they migrated inland from the Cape, and established several states in what are now South Africa and Namibia. The Oorlam migration in South Africa also produced the related Griqua people.[1]


Mixed-race "Afrikander" Trekboer nomads in the Cape Colony, ancestral people to the Oorlam and Griqua migrations.

Beginning in the late 18th century, Oorlam communities migrated from the Cape Colony north to Namaqualand. They settled places earlier occupied by the Nama. They came partly to escape the colonial Dutch East India Company conscription, partly to raid and trade, and partly to obtain herding lands.[2] Some of these emigrant Oorlams (including the band led by the outlaw Jager Afrikaner and his son Jonker Afrikaner in the Transgariep) retained links to Oorlam communities in or close to the borders of the Cape Colony. In the face of gradual Boer expansion and then large-scale Boer migrations, such as the Dorsland Trek, away from British rule in the Cape, Jonker Afrikaner brought his people into Namaqualand by the mid-19th century, becoming a formidable force for Oorlam domination over the Nama and against the Bantu-speaking Hereros for a period.[3]

Emerging from populations of Khoikhoi servants raised on Boer farms, many of them having been orphaned and captured in Dutch commando raids, Oorlams primarily spoke a version of Dutch or proto-Afrikaans and were much influenced by Cape Dutch colonial ways of life, including adoption of horses and guns, European clothing, and Christianity.[4]

However, after two centuries of assimilation into the Nama culture, many Oorlams today regard Khoekhoe (Damara/Nama) as their mother tongue. The distinction between Namas and Oorlams has gradually disappeared, such that they are regarded as a single ethnic group, despite their differing origins.[5]


The Orlam people comprise various subtribes, clans and families. In South Africa, the Griqua are an influential Oorlam group.

The clans that migrated across the Oranje into South West Africa are, in order of their time of arrival:

Notable Oorlam people

See also


  1. ^ "Slavery in the Cape". Institute for the Study of Slavery and its Legacy – South Africa. Archived from the original on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  2. ^ J. D. Omer-Cooper, History of Southern Africa (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1987), 263; Nigel Penn, "Drosters of the Bokkeveld and the Roggeveld, 1770–1800," in Slavery in South Africa: Captive Labor on the Dutch Frontier, ed. Elizabeth A. Eldredge and Fred Morton (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994), 42; Martin Legassick, "The Northern Frontier to ca. 1840: The rise and decline of the Griqua people," in The Shaping of South African Society, 1652–1840, ed. Richard Elphick & Hermann Giliomee (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan U. Press, 1988), 373–74.
  3. ^ Omer-Cooper, 263-64.
  4. ^ Legassick, 368-69; Penn, 42.
  5. ^ Malan, Johan S (1998). Die Völker Namibias [The Tribes of Namibia] (in German). Windhoek, Göttingen: Klaus Hess. pp. 120–121.
  6. ^ Dierks, Klaus. "Biographies of Namibian Personalities, A". Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d Dedering, Tilman (1997). Hate the old and follow the new: Khoekhoe and missionaries in early nineteenth-century Namibia. Vol. 2 (Missionsgeschichtliches Archiv ed.). Franz Steiner Verlag. pp. 59–61. ISBN 978-3-515-06872-7.
  8. ^ Dierks, Klaus. "Biographies of Namibian Personalities, L". Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  9. ^ Shiremo, Shampapi (14 January 2011). "Captain Andreas Lambert: A brave warrior and a martyr of the Namibian anti-colonial resistance". New Era. Archived from the original on 8 December 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2011.

Further reading