Boerewors, Patriotism and Nationhood

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By Mathew Gowaseb WINDHOEK The World’s Biggest Braai awakened a sense of belonging, pride in being Namibian, and a great sense of patriotism in many Namibians. It rekindled recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations. It rekindled the vibrancy of Donkerhoek and Dolam – the rallies of the seventies and the eighties. Pleasant memories of an era when as Namibians, we had a common cause and believed that we had a common destiny. Inching my way through the throngs of excited fellow earthlings, and navigating my way into the Sam Nujoma Stadium, I couldn’t help but smile at the dear and precious recollections of a happy, joyous and resolute era. I was reminded of the courage, honour, hope, pride, compassion and sacrifice which have been the glory of our past. Without perhaps realising the magnitude of the lasting impact the World’s Biggest Braai would make, the organizers of this commendable effort brought together Namibians from all stations in life in displaying a unique sense of togetherness. Without religious, political, self-enrichment or any other fragmenting rhetoric, Namibians came together for a common purpose – that of breaking the Guinness World Biggest Braai record. It is immaterial whether we broke the record or not. What matters is that for several hours the rich, the poor, employed, unemployed, black, or white came out in huge numbers, queued for hours and contributed to a unifying event. We all had equal worth, same purpose and a common dream – breaking the record. Dolam, which became a household name as a result of the recent floods, took on a new character. A sea of faces, smiling, talking – happy faces. There were no expectations, no keeping up appearances. No suspicion – only one goal! Standing in the long queue, watching those happy faces, I realized that none of those present could be challenged or their loyalty questioned. They were, indeed, proud Namibians and proud to be Namibian. There was so much soulful simplicity – dust, the laughter, the music, the colours. Despite the daily hardships for many, it was the fundamental values of this magnificent country that shone through. Yes, there is poverty in our country; and yes there is sickness but what came through this weekend was the resolve of our people. It was a pilgrimage of sorts to the very shrine – Donkerhoek. A place which, in the past, represented inspiration, hope and resolve for so many Namibians. I enjoyed the feeling of identity, belonging. The joy and happiness did not arise from the boerewors. The joy on those faces came from the purpose of being of service. What mattered was who they were (proud Namibians) and not what they were. As Rabindranath Tagore, the great Indian poet put it: Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; Where words come out from the depth of truth; Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and actionÃÆ’Æ‘ÂÂÃÆ’ÂÀÃ…¬ÃÆ’ÂÃ’šÂ¬Ã‚ Into that haven of freedom, my father, let my country awake. For a moment, Katutura was awoken. If, as a result of this event, Namibians streamed in from all corners of the nation’s capital, and perhaps from other parts of the country, why can’t we continue to find common rallying points within our communities? Why do we allow fragmentation, self-interest and greed to erode our national ethos and resulting in narrow interests? The World’s Biggest Braai made me realize that differences are indeed a condition of life, not a hostile act. Whatever the current differences are, they are mere fences, not an un-crossable barrier? Indeed, if I see that you’re hurting, that there’s something wrong with you and I can help you out, why do I have to care about what colour of skin you have, what colour of eyes you have, or where you come from? Saint Augustine said that a community was a group of people who were bound together by the object of their love. The past weekend proved to me that somewhere along the journey, we have not put our hands on what it is that binds us together. We have become insular and focused on the most easily identifiable things that we love. The need to succeed at all costs is busy eroding the very essence of what inspired us in our quest for One Namibia, One Nation. Today, we can’t think of anything larger than our own selfish needs, wants and desires. So, what this event has taught many of us is that we love Namibia and the entirety of her children – all her earthlings. Yes, we do! We may do our valiant best to engineer nationalism, but perhaps we need only look ÃÆ’Æ‘ÂÂÃÆ’ÂÀÃ…¬ÃÆ’ÂÃ’šÂ¬Ã‚ just for starters ÃÆ’Æ‘ÂÂÃÆ’ÂÀÃ…¬ÃÆ’ÂÃ’šÂ¬Ã‚ at the impact of the World’ Biggest Braai and the response from the Namibian public. The event showed us that in order to rediscover some of the sentiments which are holding us back from giving ourselves to this country, we need non-political, non-ideological and unselfish sentiments to mould ourselves as a nation and to call ourselves proud Namibians. As Dolam and Donkerhoek of the old took on new life and bustled once again with euphoria and excitement, I was happy to be at the Sam Nujoma Stadium. Happy to see the Father of the Nation. Happy to be part of those unpretentious hordes of fellow citizens. Happy to call myself Namibian. Happy to help make history. Happy to be relevant. Happy to be of service to my country. Only qualification to serve – loyalty to my country – and to none else. An awesome feeling, indeed! I wish to see more proactive efforts by those with the means to create national rallying issues and in the process to help the poor and needy. I hope to see different members of society to begin to lend a helping hand to uphold those who are too weak to seek help. Watching my fellow earthlings, I made a mental note of my wishes for my country: That she will continue to be prosperous, to truly embrace, in rhetoric and action, a more open and inclusive Namibian society where everyone matters; to cultivate a thinking society from young; to question, debate and reaffirm the fundamental rationale and logic of the way we think, speak and feel; to refine policies to help the poor; to be able to laugh at ourselves now and then; not to be overly sensitive and for all Namibians to be enabled to pursue their happiness to the fullest. The World’s Biggest Braai event has taught me that it is only through a sense of belonging, that we will feel proud of our country, and our surroundings. It is only through wanting to be ‘there’ and insisting to be ‘present’ that we can build our country. The event yet again proved to us that we must develop a “can do” approach. Everything is possible with a strong will and a positive attitude. It also showed us that rhetoric, be it political or religious, doesn’t build nations nor unite people. It is people, their values and their confidence that builds nations. As Tagore puts it, to unite fully the fragments of the Narrow Domestic walls of ‘Namibia’, knitting it into one family, only the people can take the lead. Rather than looking into the past, we have to look to the future – together.

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