So, who are the Namibians?

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In his latest book, ‘Who are the Namibians: Past, Present and Future Generations’, author Joseph Andrew Taukondyo sets out to define who are Namibians. However, the book is not an attempt to categorise who are the true Namibians, the true owners of the land or who should really be called a Namibian.

Rather, it becomes clear after reading the first four chapters of the 194-page book that Taukondyo aims at defining the character of Namibians and how they all endured oppression, colonialism and eventually apartheid – all Namibians, from the San, Nama, Damara, to those he termed the Bantu group (all the tribes that speak a Bantu language, from Kwanyama to Lozi and Yeyi in Zambezi Region). It is an attempt to look at the influence of colonialism and apartheid (as well as Christianity) on the Namibian people.

He also dwells on how customs, traditions and Christianity came to influence the habits of Namibian people.
The book concludes (each chapter has a conclusion) with what can be described as recommendations for Namibia’s future generation. The chapter is titled ‘Namibia’s future generation – great ideas to build the country.’ It lists a number of great ideas ranging from cultivating future leaders, education, to freedom, loyalty, rule of law and government.

In between, the book is an attempt at an anthropological study of Namibian cultures and traditions, looking at their language but more on what had been the cultural and traditional setup of each Namibian tribe as though to provide an answer to what makes a Namibian tick.

As Taukondyo says, the vital component of any country is its people and hence the book looks at relevant factors in the pre-classical era from geography to population, economy and ethnic group and how all those shaped who are the Namibians of today. Geography, he says, affected Namibians in varying ways and it is one of the reasons for cultural diversity.

For instance, he says, the Namibian Desert did not have fertile soil good for growing crops, but the mild climate allowed for some farming. The geography of the settlement for each Namibian ethnic group also determined the kind of industry for that settlement, and it dictated not only the housing setup and clothing, for instance, but settlers had to adapt to the geographical area as well. “Himba people have longer limbs that help them lose body heat in the warm climate of Kunene Region. San adapted by storing more body fat and increasing metabolic rates,” the book says.

The book also states that the San people “were the first Africans in the diaspora to inhabit southern Africa, where they lived in Namibia for many centuries” before colonialism, trading copper, gold, hide, salt with other tribes such as the Nama, Herero, Ovambo, Tswana, Damara, Kavango and people from Zambezi.

The San had their indigenous education and curriculum for the training of the young, which persist up to today. The education, the author says, contained character development, physical training, intellectual development, vocational training, agricultural education, and promotion of cultural heritage. “Its main objective was for an immediate introduction of the young into society and a preparation for adulthood. The education took place at home, the young learnt through observation, imitation, folk tales and practical activities.”

Before colonialism they were politically, socially, economically and technologically an isolated group. “There was little crime by western standards and life was generally very safe. The quality of life enabled them to grow up well physically, mentally and spiritually. San culture was to eat food cooked around offering children the healthy and fresh meat in a home environment,” (sic) the author writes in the book.

The author also recognises that the San had chiefs – however colonial rule came to threaten their chiefly system, as the San scattered into remote areas of Namibia in the war of resistance. As a result they lived in small bands without conspicuous chiefs and developed their own systems of chiefly rule.

The book also recognises the Damara people as largely a nomadic people who never united into a single state. The author also opines that because the Damara people never marked the land with fences and barriers in ways that were obvious to the Europeans, the Europeans developed a myth that the Damara people did not own land.

Nevertheless, many Damara people were traders who settled in towns and those towns developed into kingdoms. “The people lived in a peaceful and orderly existence in spacious dwellings, which, in the absence of suitable stone or clay, were constructed of grass and reeds,” the author tells us in the book.

The book also tell the reader of how the Damara people would trade in gold from the inland people of Shona land in today’s Zimbabwe and engage in other trade with the Ovambo people in the north of Namibia and the Nama in the south.

Interestingly, the book devotes significant space to the love of music by the Damara people, and how music played an important role in ceremonies with the royal drums seen as an important symbol of kingship.

The book goes on to narrate the quest for independence by Namibians, of all tribes, starting with the old chiefs, to the times when young people left the country for exile and how young people used such opportunity to pursue education.

Taukondyo, the author, holds, among other qualifications, a master’s degree in applied linguistics from the University of Leicester, and a degree in education from UK Newport University in California, USA and is currently a PhD candidate at Cavendish University, Zambia. A teacher by profession Taukondyo is currently a lecturer at the International University of Management. He has previously lectured at the University of Namibia and has taught at high school level.

Born in 1949 in Engela, Ohangwena Region, Taukondyo went into exile in 1964, completing his ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels in 1974 in Tanzania. His previous book titled ‘My Life in Exile’ was published in 2012.

• ‘Who are the Namibians: Past, Present and Future Generations’ is printed by Three Dimension Printing & Signs, Windhoek, and Joseph Andrew Taukondyo as the self-published author. Copies of the book are available at 0811481251.

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