Munyondo gwaKapande Narrative – In Celebration and Defence of Black Stories

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By Job Shipululo Amupanda


WINDHOEK –
Although whites slaughtered and exploited blacks for more than 500 years, a lengthy period for which the brave amongst us ask where Jesus was, we aren’t sure when whites will fully comprehend the modus operandi of black people. Black socio-cultural life is the victim, riddled with confusion.

Take, as an example the characteristics of a man for whom women are to wrestle each other to secure a position of a spouse. Such a man is introduced through concepts of ‘romance’ and is the one that can constantly deliver flowers and roses to a woman. He with time listens to gossip and often sheds tears. He directs resources to the she person in a “make-it-rain” fashion and is one capable of publically shouting the name of the prospective spouse to the loudest point of his lungs.

In this case, as witnessed so often, useless brothers score themselves beautiful girls by merely demonstrating the ability to deliver roses and flowers and shed tears. In the final analysis – when the brothers are unable to make a transition to real life – sisters are quick to conclude that brothers have ‘changed’ thus necessitating a relationship termination with immediate effect. That the brother may have been useless from the start and that no sophistication is required in distributing resources, delivering roses and flowers and in making tears available is left unconsidered. Let’s leave brothers’ responses to such eventuality to your imagination.

Job-Shipululo-AmupandaThis sharply differs from African characteristics that have long appointed, as characteristic of an ideal man, that the brother who is capable of providing for his family and who has dignity, integrity and good moral standing is counted amongst the bravest of the male species in the community. In fact, the sister’s family travels to the brother’s family to conduct an audit to satisfy the above characteristics and means, ensuring that they do not surrender their child to a moron.  Tears, roses and flowers are not part of the requirements. The misunderstanding of the modus operandi of black people transcends romance. Unable to gain serious intellectual recognition in Europe, European feminist academics often took the first available flight to Africa seeking reverence from unsuspecting pedestrians. The African intelligentsia, especially those that went to university in post-independent Africa, rose to the pedestal pointing out the serious dwarfism of feminist academics and dismissing their work as mis-diagnoses.

A West African story comes to mind. A feminist arrived in one village in West Africa, observing that women walked long distances, travelling several kilometres to collect water. The feminist saw this as exploitation of women and that they needed to mobilize to revolt and topple the ‘patriarchal’ establishment. While exploring this possibility, they asked for donor money to build several water taps, to cut the distance to a bare minimum. “We brought water closer to the women, held an unveiling ceremony also attended by the local Chief” they wrote in their diaries. Upon their return to the village a few weeks later, they discovered that women still travelled those same long distances to collect water at old sources.

Why are they still travelling long kilometres when water points are nearby?” so asked the leading feminist in a state of total confusion. A 23-year-old girl was so generous to answer: “The distance allows us, as women, to discuss our issues, strategize and device solutions to community problems adequately in a fruition (sic) manner.” The following day, the feminist academics left the village to Europe, never to return to Africa again. Africans have always defined a community, through African spirituality, as composed of the living, the dead and those yet to come. The living are expected to live their lives ensuring that they preserve a good community to be inherited by those yet to come. When the unborn arrive, they find a community ready for them. Their place in the community is planned for even before their parents meet. The dead are still considered to be a part of us; our ancestors who continue to look after us. They are with our god. African heritage is incomplete without the understanding of African spirituality. The story of Munyondo gwaKapande cannot be understood without the understanding of African spirituality.

This is one of the many stories I learned about in my recent visit to the Kavango Region apart from the realization that the greatest of swimmers are not only whites. What we witnessed at the Kavango River warrants an order to the Sports Commission and Swimming Namibia to go to Kavango and unearth our Olympic gold medals in swimming (sic). It is said that among the Mbunza people in Kavango, in the 1880s, community members gathered for a dance called ‘Epera’ in celebration of the harvest. The message for the dance would be sent out to community members, drum beaters and the best singers would be invited, local brew brewed and the cattle(s) slaughtered. At one time, the ‘Epera’ took place near a Munyondo tree (Acacia Eriolab thorn tree) situated about 30 kilometres west of Rundu in the Kapako constituency. Amongst the drumbeaters was Kapande, a revered drumbeater who lived near Sigone village. So good was Kapande that the sound of his drum would awaken those sleeping and invoke the loudest ululation from the women. While beating the drum the story goes, he turned towards the Munyondo tree and began entering the tree. When the last sigh of his drum also began entering the tree, some among the audience attempted to rescue him, but to no avail. Some went home to get axes to cut down the tree, it didn’t help either. As these attempts were being made, the people could still hear the sound of Kapande’s drum. The scared became more scared and kept away from the tree, while others continued to dance we are told. As the years went by Kapande’s drums would be heard during the early hours of the morning. The tree has since then been known as Munyondo gwaKapande. In the 1960s the then colonial administration resolved to build a gravel road necessitating the cutting down of the Munyondo tree. They brought the first caterpillar that does not joke with trees. It broke down. They brought the second one, its engine also died. They then resolved to build the road on the sides. The Munyondo gwaKapande is still standing tall today. Why it is not a National Heritage Site and if it becomes what is the benefits to be derived for the locals who are hopeful of benefitting from any English speaking stranger arriving in a vehicle?

The resilient youth of Kapako have an initiative a Cultural Village near this famous Munyondo gwaKapande, on the banks of the Kavango River. It will feature cultural performances, provide a market for local craft products, a museum, serve local food and drinks and provide demonstrations of traditional skills (such as drumming and wood carving). Let’s support them.

Job Shipululo Amupanda is a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Namibia.  

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