Namibia’s range of inexpensive souvenirs includes all sorts of things, from kitsch African curios and batik paintings to superb Owambo basketry and Kavango woodcarvings. Most of the items sold along Post St Mall in Windhoek are cheap curios imported from Zimbabwe. Along the highways around the country, roadside stalls sometimes appear, selling locally produced items, from baskets and simple pottery jars to the appealing woven mats and wooden aeroplanes that are a Kavango speciality. In Rundu and other areas of the northeast, you’ll find distinctive San material arts – bows and arrows, ostrich-egg beads and leather pouches. An excellent place to browse a whole range of craftwork is the Namibia Crafts Centre in Windhoek.
The pastel colours of the Namib provide inspiration for a number of local artists, and lots of galleries in Windhoek and Swakopmund feature local paintings and sculpture. Some lovely items are also produced in conjunction with the karakul wool industry, such as rugs, wall hangings and textiles. The better weaving outlets are found in Dordabis, Swakopmund and Windhoek.
Windhoek is the centre of the upmarket leather industry, and there you’ll find high-quality products, from belts and handbags to made-to-measure leather jackets. Beware, however, of items made from crocodile or other protected species, and note that those comfortable shoes known as Swakopmunders are made from kudu leather. Several shops have now stopped selling them.
Minerals and gemstones are popular purchases. Malachite, amethyst, chalcedony, aquamarine, tourmaline, jasper and rose quartz are among the most beautiful. You’ll find the best jewellery shops in Windhoek and Swakopmund; the most reputable of these is House of Gems in Windhoek.
If you’re interested in something that appears to be an antique or resembles an artefact, ask about its provenance. Any antiquity must have an export/import permit and the dealer must have a licence to sell antiquities.
Buying souvenirs derived from protected wild species – cheetahs, leopards, elephants or (heaven forbid) rhinos – is forbidden. In Windhoek and other places, you’ll see lots of ivory pieces and jewellery for sale. The only legitimate stuff is clearly marked as culled ivory from Namibian national parks.