Celebrating White Nostalgia

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro Education Minister Nangolo Mbumba and business personality Harold Pupkewitz did not only grace the 90-years anniversary of the Windhoek High School on Monday. They also so generously showered the school with some accolades. No that the school does not deserve it. Yes, it may deserve it but not without some circumference. Academic excellence for which the school can pass with some flying colours is one thing. However, there are some other aspects which an ardent observer of goings-on at the school may find unnerving. Most amazingly Mr Pupkewitz referred to the school, as one daily reported him, as follows: ” Hy het WHS beskryf as die wieg van patriotisme waar Suidwesterskap uiteindelik tot die bewustheid van a Namibiese nasie veruim het.” Let me venture a translation: “He described WHS as the cradle of patriotism where South Westernism eventually laid the basis for the awareness of a Namibian nation.” I am afraid I have a different perception to Mr Pupkewitz and Honourable Mbumba who described the school as “Windhoek HoÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚«r is waarlik hoog!” (Windhoek High is really high!) to quote once again the daily. The celebrations go back to last week and have even been termed “colourful” by a section of the media. What colourful means in this respect is uncertain. Yes, superficially colourful I would say if colourful means an occasion for all cultures to be part of the 90-years anniversary celebrations. Seeing the school marching through the streets of Windhoek last Friday gave one a picture of a cultural hotchpotch. However, this public spectacle belied that the school is far from administering to the cultures of all its learner communities. Whether this is to a great extent a factor of the Apartheid and White-dom legacy, a bastion of which it was in pre-colonial times as opposed to being “a cradle of patriotism” as the businessperson would like us to believe, remains unclear. In fact, if one takes the 90 years minus the 17 years or so of our independence, then a good 63 years may be no more than the celebration of White nostalgia. One would have thought that legacy has been slowly fading away since the dawn of independence on 21 March 1990. However, the more one wishes the legacy to fade away, the more it seems to be sublimely winning itself within the edifices of the apparently changing institution. Somehow, it looks like the school authority is taking its time to live up to the expectations of a “new Nation”. Not that there are no good and well meaning elements in its midst not only able to read the signs of the times but also everything in their power to let the spirit of the times triumph. But it seems at this stage such elements may be few and far between. This school and many of its former kind must know that as a former bastion of White-dom, they are constantly in a looking glass to mend ways in alignment with a new culture of independence and multiculturalism. A highlight or perhaps one of the major highlights of WHS’s 90 years’ celebrations was a Special Music Festival. Local performers for the festival were highlighted in a circular as Pyplyn, Dusty Dixon and others. It seems there were no “others” if these “others” may have meant “African” performers. I must admit that it is the first time that I hear of the names Pyplyn and Dusty Dixon but I can guarantee you that 99.9 per cent, they appeal to only one cultural taste. Need I point out which cultural taste this might be? The highlight of the evening was Stefan Ludik and Kurt Darren. Need I say more? The picture in the media of the white stars jamboree with their white fans does not speak much of a multicultural school where all cultural tastes enjoy recognition and equality. I must give the organisers the benefit of the doubt as I am only picking on one aspect of the anniversary celebrations. But this to my mind speaks volumes about the state of affairs at the school that still seems to be clinging to the old archaic ways where some cultures are seen as backward. Pardon me if this may happen unconsciously but still it cannot be condoned. Namibia is an African country as much as our cultures remain subdued and neglected and in the eyes of some – backward, unchristian or not fit for the ears and eyes of those claiming their cultures to be better and more acceptable. Thus the Special Music Festival must at least have had a semblance of Africaness, if only a semblance. I cannot understand why should the school’s community, which has a good intake of black African learners, and thereby a substantial black African parentage, be subjected and held ransom to the cultural hegemony of only one of its constituent parts? It is hard to read in the apparent cultural bias little less than just a cultural bias if one recalls past incidents concerning race relations at the school. I can only recall the coastal debacle last year and I am not aware to what extent it has been resolved. The neglect by the school authority of sport codes, in which black learners predominantly partake, like soccer, is an open book. These matters may seem trivial to the school authority and perhaps to our ruling elite but I don’t see how the school can qualify for “greatness” with this blemish? The school board, boasting with a good representation by Africans, could only ignore these matters at the peril of being seen as another rent-a-black board. As for our ruling elite, both in politics and business, somehow we seem to have a different perception of what the school really stands for, its academic achievements notwithstanding. However academic excellence built on Apartheid ethos, as history has shown, is a no-go.