Africa: Totems Are Key to Restoration of Lost Identities

The so-called Dark Continent has gone through a tremendous evolution in terms of culture, religion and politics. Africa is well known for dreadful things: the black genocides, slavery, wars, hunger and everything that condition black people to a brutal lifestyle for such is the meaning of blackness.

Annually, Oshakati is the centre of attraction for all types of visitors aiming to witness events of humankind unfolding in ululation of mass gatherings of the Aawambo people. As for Olufuko festival, what is the totem expo and what is it for?

Many may ponder such a question; those who gather around fires in African villages such as Eyanda village in northern Namibia choose to teach sacred concepts such as totemic veneration via oral history. As for that, African traditional lessons started and are at the village. Historically, here is a prelude on basic orientation of totems for generational dialogue and epistemological consumption.

Before the Europeans came to Africa, the continent had a candid sacred culture and spirituality but when missionaries toxically preached religion in the form of Christianity - therefore undermining our own - they sowed seeds of a new culture which diluted and ultimately erased our cultural guidelines, ranging from traditional practices, the attires, African names, African ritual gatherings to events such as Olufuko and/ or Oohango Ndhokiitsali (African traditional weddings).

The missionaries gave us names of their origin that they could understand and pronounce better than our own names, they labelled African education as backward, they despised African food, they undermined local languages, in fact the missionaries halted the sacred system with their religion and their Abrahamic beliefs such as Christianity.

African history has been long and bitter as sung by the legendary late Jackson Kaujeua, son of the Namibian soil. This tells us that the Europeans robbed us not only of the land and mineral resources, but our culture and religion by killing our confidence of self and knowledge of self through domesticating Africans into subjects of Christianity.

On this account, it is where one gathers and comes to examine how African governments came to explore cultural restoration in presenting of events such as the Oshakati Totem Expo. This exposition of traditional African activities which were undermined by racist apartheid governments teaches African people, especially the youth, lessons of being an African. These events somehow restore our mindset in order to see our ancestral faces and re-discover humanity in line with our ancestral beings as it was supposed to be, were it not for colonialism and apartheid in exploiting the black race.

The totem expo is the veneration of African identities and ancestry, given our exploited generation of who we are, where we come from and how we called ourselves before any foreign religion and culture arTherived on the continent. This gives us traditional microscopes so that we can zoom in on and see that we were and are Aawambo before English, Ovahereros before Lothar Von Trotha, Namas before Bathromeus Diaz and so the story goes.

Africans must therefore know through these events that we were and are the Shivutes before we are Immanuels, Hivirikees before we are Johanneses, !Naobebs before we are Heinrichs, so as to restore our knowledge and confidence of the blackness in us.

Basically, a 'totem', in English, is an ancestral symbol or an emblem that represents a group of people such as family, clan, lineage and a tribe. In Oshiwambo groups, we have subcultures and clans and as symbols of African families through paternal and maternal lineages these clans are totemically identified by the use of specific sacred animals as totemic symbols and give clear identities between clans and define cultural relationships in terms of maternal and paternal origins, which can also give reference and ancestral guidance to inter-cultural behaviours.

This guides us in everything we do as Africans, such as communications, rituals, worship and traditional heritages of knowledge, wealth, power and ethnical identifications. Tribally, each clan has its totems. For example, Aawambo who by same sub-tribe can belong to the same clan called 'Aakwanangombe' loosely translated as 'people of the cattle' - which means their totem is a cattle, and historically by their totemic identification they possess cattle as a sign of their wealth.

Other examples of Oshiwambo clans and their totems are Aakwanailya (millet), Aatundu (zebra), Aakwamandjila (African elephant), Aakwashikolowala (laziness/poor), Aakwausinda (snake) and Aakwanakalimba (rabbit) .

After black genocides were committed to suppress African cultures, there was a vacuum in accomplishing ourselves as black people because one is nothing without a culture. African events such as the totem expo in Oshakati and Olufuko in Outapi close that vacuum because nature does not allow for a vacuum.