The exhibition and publication `Resistance on the banks of the Kavango River,’ which is the first of its kind produced by a region in all of Namibia and the first to provide a regional perspective on the liberation struggle in Kavango, was launched recently.
The unveiling took place in Rundu at the Maria Mwengere Cultural and Youth Centre.
John Mutorwa the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry attended the launch.
The exhibition is based on research done by a team of local historians, namely, Dr Marius Kudumo, Herbert Kandjimi, Sebastian Kantema, Mandhavela Khasera, Shampapi Shiremo, Dr Kletus Likuwa, Aaron Nambadi and Dr Jeremy Sylvester, who collectively produced the book ‘Resistance on the banks of the Kavango River.’
The exhibition features photographs collected from both the official archives and members of the public. The book and the exhibition complement each other. The exhibition contains more photographs than could be included in the book, while the book contains far more information than could be included in the exhibition.
“I am extremely and excitedly delighted that today we are publicly launching a book and an exhibition that provide a regional perspective to the political history of our country and nation’s national struggle for political independence and freedom,” Mutorwa said when he launched the book.
Mutorwa further stated that he was delighted that the book was mainly written by local historians who grew up in the Kavango West and East Regions.
Mutorwa further applauded the government of Finland through their Embassy in Namibia for supporting the important research, and the Museums Association of Namibia for successfully implementing the project.
“I understand that the team of historians started their research years ago, first with two workshops held in Rundu. It was in the end the funding from the Embassy of Finland that enabled the exhibition to be produced and eventually to be officially and publicly launched here today,” Mutorwa said.
When officially opening the exhibition at Kavango Museum, Finnish Ambassador to Namibia Anne Saloranta commended the people in the communities who contributed to the book that led to an exhibition in various ways.
“I wish to commend the local communities for their participation and their sense of ownership over the project. It is a pleasure to witness the launch here in the Kavango Museum at the Maria Mwengere Cultural and Youth Centre and the opening of the museum at the same time,” she said.
“The exhibition, intended to be a permanent one, has now been mounted here in this museum. I trust that it will engage the local community more closely with the project and boost the development of the museum sector in the area,” said the Finnish ambassador.
The exhibition is organised in ten sections, which reflects the ten themes covered in the book. The exhibition starts with an introduction that briefly discusses the concept of `the Kavango’, its geographical location and the communities that settled there. The exhibition describes the first colonial experience of the region with German colonial authorities and early resistance that led to a German map that showed the region as `rebellious.’
The viewer learns about the recruitment of workers under the contract labour system in the region. The exhibition features images of some of the leaders and actions taken by students, particularly those organised by Nanso and Nantu.
A fifth section focuses on the experiences of women in rural households who supplied food to guerrillas, while another considers the position of the church in the Kavango in speaking out against human rights’ abuses and the illegal detention of civilians.
Each region of Namibia had a different experience of forced removals and a section of the exhibition covers removals that took place in Rundu in the early 1970s.
Photographs also look at the role played by some traditional leaders in criticising South African policy, and who advocated for a single unitary state at a time when efforts were being made to obtain their support for the `Homeland’ system.
The location of the Kavango at the border meant that it also experienced an intensive period of armed struggle, which is reflected in the exhibition. Finally there is a section that touches on the election campaign of 1989.
One of the main messages of the exhibition will be to highlight the importance of private photographic collections. Research for the exhibition revealed that there are many topics that are not well covered in the photograph holdings of the National Archives of Namibia. Visitors to the exhibition will be encouraged to bring their photographs to Rundu Museum so that they can be scanned and be used for the exhibition to grow further.