Witbooi’s wish fulfilled at Nama Cultural Festival

The just ended Nama Cultural Festival held in Keetmanshoop from 24 to 27 May 2018, under the theme Nama Khoeda ge (We are Nama people) with the objective to unite the Nama people, requires introspection and reflection on the part of the Nama community and the Namibian nation.

The comments on the outcome of the festival in social media were overwhelmed by expressions of praise that the event was a resounding success. Others said it exceeded expectations and that doomsayers were proved wrong. They all resolved that the event should be made an annual event.

But while some were happy, others cried and expressed sadness that many leaders passed on without seeing this day. The latest Kaptein to pass away was Gaob David Frederick, who passed away on 14 January 2018. His wish was to see his people reunited.

Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi died some 113 years ago on 29 October 1905. His death wish was that his children should have rest, and to have the opportunity to develop themselves and celebrate in peace their history and culture.

Many Nama leaders died at the hands of the colonizers, some were shot at and killed like Hendrik Witbooi. Others were beheaded, and still others were court-martialled. All of these leaders resisted colonial occupation, aiming to leave a legacy for their children, to be free to enjoy and celebrate their heritage and their cultures.

We will mention a few Nama leaders who died under severe conditions. They did not commit crime but they said no to German settlers subjugating them, no to land grabbing, no to plundering resources of their land, and no to indiscriminate killings.

Of significant to note is that the first to be killed by German troops were women and children at Hoornkranz on 12 April 1893. The German colonial troops attacked Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi's stronghold but he escaped unharmed. However, more than 80 died and 100 were wounded, most of them women and children, from conflicting reports that reached the Foreign Office in Berlin in May 1893.

It will therefore be fitting to pay tribute to these innocent women and children, to pause at these festivals and at any other cultural and traditional gatherings for a moment of silence. One can still vividly hear the cries for help and screaming of innocent children and women.

Wikipedia explains moment of silence as a period of silent contemplation, prayer, reflection or meditation. In other words, it is a way to ponder and show respect to those who passed away recently or in the past, for a given cause.

When calling for a moment of silence at future events, ask those gathered to imagine what could have been the last thoughts of these mothers and their children. Think of the pain, the suffering, the bewilderment, and the confusion these mothers and children may have gone through.

After the attack on Hoornkranz, the German troops turned to another Nama tribe, the /Khauas of Chief Andreas Lambert, in early 1894. The German troops ordered the Chief to surrender. When he refused as Chief of his people, he was court-martialled and sentenced to death, together with his followers.

Theodor Leutwein, the third of the Reich's supreme official in South West Africa, made further attacks at Gochas where Kaptein Simon Kooper, the Chief of the Franzmann, community lived. This community was wiped out. Their possessions, their land, their horses and everything they owned were taken away and they were enslaved. The offspring of Chief Andreas Lambert and Chief Simon Kooper should call their names out and together with those gathered, remember them at future events.

The Afrikaner tribe was surrounded from three directions on 2 August 1897 by German troops near the Orange River. Kividdoe, the leader of the Afrikaner and his three sons were captured and court-martialled, together with 37 of their men and women.

In 1897, the Zwartboois fought German forces in Kaokoland when their Kaptein, David Zwartbooi, was captured. The fighting lasted from December 1897 until March 1898. Around 150 men and 400 women were captured and court-martialled and some confined to chains on charges of high treason. Remember them also at local, regional and national occasions.

Nama people totalling around 119 were deported to Cameroun and Togo in November 1904 on board a Woermann steamship. It was to punish Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi who resumed attacks on German settlers after ten years truce. Many died on the sea due to intestinal diseases and only 49 reached Cameroun.

The deportation of Hottentots became costly according to the newly appointed Colonel Berthold von Deimling, who took over as Commander-in-Chief of South West Africa. He suggested to transport them to Shark Island in Luderitz.

Namas died like flies according to some reports due to severe cold and windy conditions, neglect, malnutrition and starvation. Some records showed that since September 1906, 1,032 out of 1,795 Namas died on Shark Island. Other details state that 66 Namas died in September, 143 in October, 166 in November, 276 in December, 247 in January, 143 in February and 155 in March 1907.

Cornelius Frederick, the leader of the Bethanie people, was hanged along with many of his followers on 16 February 1907. His head was cut off; sent to Germany for research to determine racial superiority of Germans over the native people.

Think of the resistance of the Bondelswartz community in Warmbad against German brutality and how Abraham Morris and his people were killed by the Germans on 3 June 1922.

When celebrating follow-up cultural festivals and other traditional events, do remember them and others who made extreme sacrifices. Their blood watered our freedom.

Their blood should therefore propel the festival-goers to make an individual resolution: I will better my life. I will try and live a productive life. I will make a difference in my life and in the lives of my fellow Namibians. The innocent blood of my forebears that flowed for me to have freedom today, cannot go wasted.

The next struggle is economic freedom. Namibia has abundant natural resources. Most Nama people live in areas where these resources are found in //Kharas, Hardap, Kunene and Erongo regions. Take the resolve to go to all lengths to find out how to apply and partake in exploitation of those mineral resources. Value-add these precious and semi-precious minerals. Karakul is known only in certain regions and communal farmers have karakul. Convert the pelts into jackets and dresses. Have your own Nakara.

Make use of talents possessed by the people. Your dressmaking is colourful, commercialize it. You have talent in music and singing, cut CDs and DVDs and make a living out of it. Your shoes are comfortable to wear, promote it to be used widely. You are known for using herbal and plant medicine found in the veld. Patent those plants, with the help of traditional authorities, and make tablets, lotions, powder and liquids for sale.

You know what happened to !Khoba and Gamagu. Through your good heart you provided essential information and others exploited it for their own benefit. Now !Khoba (Hoodia) and Gamagu were patented, and today you have no access to harvest it, because of restrictions formulated against its use and distribution, and locals living around those herbs can only dig for others but cannot benefit from them, otherwise they have contravened the law.

Ponder how can I help myself and help our fellow Namibians? How can I emulate sacrifices of my forefathers and foremothers? Let that reflection and introspection start at individual levels.

Our Founding Father, Dr Sam Nujoma, reminds us time and again that a nation that does not know where they are coming from, will not know where they are going. Where was I, where am I now? Where am I going? Start to ponder and reflect and seriously introspect.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia