Hail the Martin Shali Cultural Group

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By Engel Nawatiseb TSUMEB The expression and respect for the senior citizens does not necessarily have to be scripted or written in order to be conveyed at official ceremonies, but traditional dancing says it all, “in our own style and spirit”. This was said by 46-year-old Olga Munda, leader of the Marthin Shali cultural group that last year scooped the prestigious regional award after winning the cultural festival held at Omuthiya. “When our leaders visit our village, then our group named after the Namibian Ambassador to Zambia, Major General Marthin Shali would take the lead to dance for them and welcome them on behalf of the rest of the community. We have nothing to offer our visitors except our own design and dance that is more appropriate to honour them,” she said. The group was formed in 2005 at the Tobias Hainyeko branch at Onalukula village by a large group of women. The simple reason, said Munda, was to instil the spirit of cultural promotion and enhancement amongst community members particularly the youth. Celebrating the International Worker’s Day on Monday, the organizers devoted 30 minutes to the Shali group to perform the play that has brought them a regional trophy in the cultural library. Invited guests, children and the elderly positioned themselves around the centre of the meeting place, while the dancers prepared themselves to showcase the “Sustainable methods” towards food self-sufficiency which has won the hearts of many Namibians wherever the play is performed. The play is significant in the sense that it teaches skills to produce milk, traditional food (Mahangu), oil, sorghum as well as traditional drinks (Ombige). “Culture is the simplest way of understanding how to be independent and to think of it as a way of living our lives. Culture gives meaning to our lives and as a result it should be clear that everybody belongs to a certain culture made up of beliefs, morals, tradition, social and historical inheritance.” She stressed that village women are teachers in their own right and could impart much needed skills and knowledge to children. “Our efforts are unique in the sense that they counter the previous colonial principle of tribalism and the divide and rule practice, which previously caused friction amongst our tribes. A cultural variety of people who can sing and dance together is much more able to solve communal problems as a unit than a divided people,” noted Munda. Such are the characteristics of the Marthin Shali cultural group, that is not only promoting the variety of cultures throughout the Onyaanya constituency but also helping to keep alive the traditional cultures of the various tribes in the northern regions. Munda says most traditional performances are perceived to be musical comedy or drama, and subsequently such dances represent different periods in the social life of their people with some acts linked to different seasons of the year, like the harvesting festivals, weddings and religious ceremonies. Different aids are used during the dances while every act or dance tells a story about happenings in the villages, or what happened in the history of a particular village or to speculate through praise songs and dances on the fate awaiting a village and its people. Mumda further encouraged cultural interaction amongst groups from different regions in order to promote unity in diversity. “The colonial period has created widespread division amongst our people along ethnic, colour and tribal lines which has created hatred between people. We do not want to live in isolation any longer, it is time to come together and promote unity through our diversified cultures,” she stressed. Justice Minister and Attorney General, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana says culture is an important tool of unification because of its diversity. “We need to learn how peoples from one region perform their culture and in so doing integrate each other’s cultural norms and values. Young people should also be motivated to create a special interest in cultural activities and equally learn the origin of their traditions as part of nation building. Meanwhile, Onyaanya constituency councillor, Henock Kankoshi stressed that culture also enhances international understanding among nations, and in that respect Namibia has interacted with many friends and allies through cultural exchange activities for the past years. He said Government is already implementing programmes that promote cultural tourism and community-based initiatives that are aimed at marketing the country’s wealth to tourists and visitors. He stated that Government has also proclaimed conservancies in various parts of the country in order to enable local communities to benefit economically from the resources in their localities. “I want the people of this region (Onyaanya) to capitalize on programmes that government has introduced to make good use of local incentives and finally reach out to the rest of the world.” Kankoshi also took issue with some tendencies that impact negatively on participation of various sectors of the local communities in cultural activities.