The annual Olufuko Cultural Festival started yesterday at the town of Outapi in the Omusati Region, with over a hundred maidens ready to be initiated into adulthood during the lively annual festival.
Olufuko is a female initiation ceremony that was practiced for generations in times gone by, which young women between the ages of 15 and 20 go through in order to become mature and suitable for marriage.
Olufuko initiation rituals are performed by enganga or elderly women who prepare the initiates for womanhood or possibly marriage. No pregnant women are allowed to participate in the festival and the Namunganga (the overseer) sees to it that participating maids are sexually inactive.New Era spoke to one of the enganga, Hituvali Fillipus, who will be performing the initiation ceremony set to take place later this week. Fillipus described the event as educative and informative, especially to young girls who are keen on learning about their cultural traditions.
According to her, the festival is also aimed at preserving cultural traditions as practiced by previous generations. Fillipus said various educational activities aimed at demonstrating how past generations lived their lives would be performed during the course of the two weeks in order that younger generations can also learn from this historical event.
These activities include among others the preparation of salt and making traditional omahangu granaries used for storage.
One hundred girls from various traditional authorities across the Omusati Region have registered for initiation during the Olufuko Festival at Outapi this year, surpassing the 82 girls that participated last year.
The maidens, accompanied by their parents, will be stationed in the Olufuko house during the course of the festival which started on Monday and will continue until September 4.
According to the Oonamunganga (overseers) that will prepare the girls, it does not necessarily mean the participating girls will get married right away, but they will be allowed to go back to school and continue with their studies.
Outapi Town Council Public Relation Officer Philipus Shililifa said unlike other festivals and trade fairs in Namibia, Olufuko is unique in the way it promotes vanishing African cultural practices and norms.
Shililifa noted 13 088 people visited the festival last year, compared to over 12 680 visitors in 2013. The festival has four components, which are corporate, agriculture, arts and crafts, as well as traditional.
The Outapi Town Council introduced the Olufuko Festival in 2012 and this year there are about 250 exhibitors in various categories, compared to 197 last year.
Founding president Sam Nujoma is the patron of the annual Olufuko festival.