Social Stress Destroying Baster Heritage

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By Surihe Gaomas REHOBOTH Social decay, unemployment, poverty, alcoholism and disease such as HIV/Aids are forcing many young Namibians to lose touch with their own self-esteem and rich cultural heritage, said a pastor who is stationed at Rehoboth. Due to modernisation, the once closely-knit communities have ceased, thus further diminishing the role of household family relationships and devaluing the role of Christianity in a society where over 90 percent of Namibians are Christians. Pastor Elvis Jansen says the youth should strive to keep in touch with their cultural roots and spiritual norms despite the mounting societal pressures that they face today. Speaking recently during the commemoration of the historic Sam Khubis massacre of the Baster community, Pastor Jansen passionately spoke about the important status that young people have in becoming the future leaders of the Baster community. He said all young people should take a positive approach to life in order to become better leaders of tomorrow, and thereby change the image of Rehoboth into one that everyone can be proud of. “The value of Christianity is not the same as today and therefore the times are different. Without a healthy family life, the community will be broken and fragmented,” explained the pastor, adding that this is closely associated with the broken humanity that prevails in the community of Rehoboth. The effects of poverty, unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse are etched on many people’s faces, he said. Addressing the Baster community at the recent commemoration, other leaders of the Sam Khubis committee felt young people should move away from degrading activities and become more involved in cultural events, as they are the future leaders. “I am worried that our history as Basters is dying because young people are no longer interested,” said one elder who noted it is crucial for the youth to know their historical background and show interest in researching a fast-diminishing oral history. “The elders are dying with the history and it’s really up to the young ones to take it further from where the grown-ups have left,” said another elder. That is why the theme for this year’s 91st anniversary of Sam Khubis is, “The Role of the Youth” to strive for a united Baster community. At the same event, calls were made to incorporate the history of Sam Khubis into the school curriculum, as most youngsters do not even know much about their own cultural heritage. “This is the time for young people to stand up and take the culture further. Where is your pride young people, why should we be affected by outside influences,” was one of the questions that were posed. Quite interestingly and unlike their parents, most of the young people were not wearing the traditional attire of the Baster community at the commemoration. The girls are accustomed to wearing the large white headgear or ‘kappies’ with long white aprons, while the boys are supposed to wear dark brown cowboy-like hats with a khaki-coloured shirt and trousers. Voicing his concern, old time teacher Dolf Olivier said this couldn’t be tolerated especially at an annual cultural event like Sam Khubis where the congregants come to honour the lives sacrificed by their ancestors 91 years ago. “Girls, it’s an honour to wear kappies, and young men where are your hats?” said Olivier. Asked why they didn’t wear them, some said that it was either old- fashioned or gave other reasons like the large size of the hat. One woman said somehow it was difficult to find ‘kappies’ and that they are difficult to make. Nevertheless, in essence culture is culture and for most Namibian ethnic groups, it plays a very important role in shaping a community. The onus is on young people to act and show pride in their culture.