Book Fits into The Archives Programme

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By Werner Hillebrecht WINDHOEK I am especially happy because this book fits in very well with the efforts which the National Archives is making to look into the neglected side of history, into the lives and the struggles and the achievements of those who are largely forgotten, the common men and women, particularly the women. What we do have here, in this building, is largely recorded by and for those in power, and one has to make a special effort to see and save the other side of the story, not only his-story but also her-story. The Archives is not writing history, but it helps in writing history, it preserves the raw material and makes it available. So, where we can help to keep a balance, we do it now, for example with the special programme “Archives of Anti-Colonial Resistance and the Liberation Struggle” which is designed to preserve and promote the voices of those who have been left out or misrepresented in the official government archives. We support efforts to go out to the villages and record the voices of the people, for example those women who cooked for the freedom fighters, who were feeding them, nursing them, hiding them, and who bore the brunt of colonial oppression when the military and the police came and searched and interrogated. Now the life of Zara Schmelen, which has been researched by Ursula Triiper, takes us back almost 200 years. We have no chance anymore to collect additional sources about her which could correct and amend what the mission society records reveal or hide. Nevertheless, the author has done a remarkable job which shows what can be extracted if one carefully studies those male-dominated records and reads them against the grain. We can visualize, we can see the invisible woman being revealed, coming to life, the woman who is mentioned in none of the books she translated, who is shown in none of the pictures of missionary life from that period. . I am glad to mention that the missionary records which the author used, are available here in our National Archives. Not the originals, but microfilms of the records of the London Missionary Society, the Wesleyan Missionary Society, and the Rhenish Mission Society are all here and can be consulted. But I am also very embarrassed because, when I looked in our catalogues whether we can at this occasion show anything of Zara Schmelen’s works, I found out that none of them seem to be available in Namibia. Neither in the National Archives, nor in the National Library of Namibia, nor in the Archives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, we find any of the publications translated by Zara Schmelen. The only ownership records of these books refer to Cape Town and London. So this should be an encouragement for us to make an effort and secure at least a good reproduction of these works – in the age of digitilisation, that should not be a technical problem anymore. I welcome Dr Loretta Carter from the Paulinum Theological Seminary, who prepared the translation of the book from Gennan together with Dr Bettina Duwe, and Mr Horst Kleinschmidt, who not only is well known to us as the man behind IDAF, the International Defence and Aid Fund in London with its unforgettable assistance for the victims of apartheid injustice, but who also is a descendant of Zara Schmelen, just like the author of the book, Ursula Triiper. As you might know, Lara’s daughter Hanna married the missionary Kleinschmidt, and their daughter Frieda in turn married the Finnish missionary Rautanen alias Nakambale – this international family is Namibian history in a nutshell. Unfortunately, neither Dr Duwe nor Ursula Triiper could come to Windhoek for this occasion. . *Werner is the acting Chief Archivist.