Colourful Cultural Explosion

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By Francis Mukuzunga WINDHOEK Traffic jams are the norm in the capital’s Independence Avenue. But, for the greater part of Thursday morning, it was a different type of traffic. Traditional dancers and cultural groups from all walks of Namibian life – drum majorettes, German folk dancers, different forms of Namibian dress, culture and all – became part of the one-kilometre ‘motorcade’ that masqueraded the street in a carnival atmosphere to mark the beginning of the /AÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚« //Gams Arts and Cultural Festival for 2006. Even comedians, stilt-dancers and fire-eaters were there, all marching to the sound of the Police Brass Band, all the way to the city’s central parking area where the grand event would take place. The main arena – a big yellow and white tent – has a two-tiered stage, big enough to accommodate all types of performances ranging from music – modern and traditional – to dance, drama, poetry and stand-up comedy, as well as the master of ceremonies. Two supporting tents on the sides will help to accommodate the 500-plus audience to a free show starting at 10h00 and ending at 22h00 every day, until Sunday. Talk about 12 hours of non-stop entertainment! Thursday’s opening started with the official part and, after ‘all protocol was observed’, the Ondunga Cultural Group set the stage ‘alight’. Forget about the over-weight of female dancers and their acrobatic males. Their performance was well choreographed as they all danced in sequence to a combination of African drumming and singing. After the Mayor of Windhoek, Councillor Matheus Shikongo, delivered his welcoming remarks, the German folk dancers, Wendische Trachtengruppe Strebitz (no tongue-biting!), graced the stage. And who says geriatrics cannot dance? The 70-years-plus group of ten danced gracefully to their own-recorded music in a country their forefathers may have scorned in those years. The mayor even invited the group back to Namibia soon to set up a retirement village. For his efforts he was awarded with a present from the Bavarians – a pretty German doll and a hand-painted plate. Master of ceremonies, Niilo Taapopi, CEO of the City of Windhoek had to be dictatorial in his programme for he interspaced speeches and performances, and quite rightly so. The local Ndilimani Cultural Troupe, whose rumba and kizomba antics kept everyone foot-stomping, including John Mutorwa, Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, whose feet might have been tapping under the cloth of the high table. And not to be outdone was the Shaambo Cultural Group, whose traditional music, although done on modern instrumentation, still reminds one that they are in the land of ‘hot water’ in the Nama language, while the Herero call it ‘Otjomuise’ – ‘the place of steam’. To cap off all official proceedings, Liz Sibindi, PRO of the Windhoek Municipality, who was dressed all-Namibian for the occasion, threw away her camera and sang AU and Namibian national anthems. The rest of the day, likewise Friday, Saturday and Sunday, was full of all the merriment one can think of in a very cultural setting. Poet Barro Ndungula told New Era he enjoyed the first part and was looking forward to a festive four days. And so did a group of young friends, Emma Ileka, Ndina Kandume and Tanata Eino, who came all the way from Katutura to enjoy the show. For those who enjoy culinary delights from Namibia, there was plenty to eat and drink on sale. Emily Nakawa and Mary Shuuveni were some of the people who put up stalls in the restaurant tent and invited everyone to come eat, drink and be merry.