By Surihe Gaomas ARANDIS A cultural explosion shook the quiet town of Arandis when the second cultural festival got underway this week. The vibrant musical beats of the different ethnic groups took over the popular Arandis marketplace as hundreds of people swarmed around the cultural dancers to see their rhythmic body movements. Marking the two-day event under the theme: “Cultures as Bridges to Nation Building,” last Saturday started off with the parade of the Otjiherero troops. Then the Tswana Bana ba Botlhaba (Children of the East) cultural group followed later with performances by the Namib Dancers from the Topnaar Community, then the Kwanyama Girls and finally the Asser Kapere cultural group from the north. The crowd was very much excited when one of the dancers in traditional attire proudly displayed their cultural foodstuffs, known to many Namibians in the country. “This is Oshikundu, a local drink that makes you strong and healthy,” shouted one of the dancers in Afrikaans holding the plastic bottle full of the locally made brew. “It won’t make you drunk, just very strong and healthy,” she added with a smile, putting down the bottle. For those in the know this was a delightful experience and for others it was an ideal way to learn each other’s cultures, traditions and way of life. As the young children watched the performances it was a learning platform for them to also know their own background and that of their fellow Namibians. It is against this backdrop that the Arandis Urban Conservancy held the recent cultural festival. Officially opening the event on behalf of the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Councillor Hafeni Ndemula said that the occasion highlights the vibrant cultural diversity in the country. The theme, “Cultures as Bridges to Nation-Building” is therefore viewed as a means to foster not only understanding and acceptance of differences in cultures, but also that race or skin colour should by no means be a stumbling block to national reconciliation. “We must recognise the colourful diversity of our nation and celebrate and accept each other’s cultures instead of pointing to differences and encouraging tribal divisions.” He cited further that Article 19 of the Namibian Constitution states clearly that everyone has the right to express their cultures and traditions freely in the country, while having respect for other cultures as well. “Different cultures will teach us different ways of life styles, different traditional norms, different usages of medicine and different ways of preservation and conservation of natural resources,” added Ndemula, saying failure to unite all Namibians would result in “disintegration and hopelessness” . During the celebration of cultures, local entrepreneurs who were selling their goods along the pavement treated the crowd to traditional cuisine dishes. These ranged from ordinary vetkoek, koeksisters, barbequed meat steaks and tripe that could be washed down with Oshikundu. The day was also graced with speeches from different traditional chiefs from all over the country. They included Chief Christian Zeraua, Chief Justus //Garoeb and Chief Constance Kgosiemang sitting at the main table decorated with traditional calabashes and food dishes. The Arandis Cultural Festival was held in the process of establishing the first-ever Urban Conservancy in Namibia with a mining museum and a cultural village in the town in the Erongo Region. Tourism programme coordinator Lucia Frederiks told the New Era team at the celebration that the essence behind this cultural union of diversity is to market the emerging cultural groups of the region, while the main objective is to promote the Arandis Urban Conservancy as the first in the same area. “We plan to do this through networking with other cultural groups in the regions and also to establish new ones in the process. Now that this event is being held for the second time it is fast gaining popularity,” explained Frederik. Before the town of Arandis was heavily dependent on RÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¶ssing Mine, but now efforts are being made to revive the town to greater heights through raising funds for setting up a cultural village and museum centre in the urban conservancy area. Recently, the town council also granted a piece of land on which these structures would be built. Having clearly enjoyed the cultural festival, Chief Seth Kootjie of the Topnaar community said that such a joyous event bodes well for a sustainable future for the community of Arandis and the nourishment of different cultures in the country. For those people who witnessed this event it was definitely an occasion to remember and cherish the cultural unison of a diverse Namibia.
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