The opinion written by Professor Joseph Diescho published in the New Era edition of Friday, 8 July 2016 stated, “The Basters had evolved out of very difficult circumstances and constituted their own traditional authority in the Gebiet with a supreme leader with their authorities and command structures.” According to him, apparently “the Damaras and the various segments of the San (!Gung) people did not have a history of structured traditional hierarchies of power as it was the case with communities of Caprivians, VaKavango, Aawambo, Ovaherero, Namas, Batswana and Basters”. This is simply not true and is like sending lies into the minds of the uninformed just like the colonialists did.
To deal with Professor Diescho’s assertion about the Damaras and the various segments of the San (!Gung) people, the question as to whom is a Damara is very, very important.
Who is a Damara?
Every black person including Caprivians, VaKavango, Aawambo, Ovaherero, Batswana are Dama, Daman, Damab, Damaras except the Namas and the Basters and of course the whites! The word Dama, Daman, Damab, Damaras came into this country around 1814 (under the leadership of Jocobus Boois (Ou Kibbib)) when the Boois People (members of my ancestry – sic) and other Nama-speaking people were fleeing Dutch Colonialism which is the same colonial trait which you now used to depict the #Nu-khoi as people without traditional authority and without a supreme leader with their authorities and command structures. Even today, in southern Namibia, the Nama-speaking people make reference to Caprivians, VaKavango, Aawambo, Ovaherero, Batswana as you prefer to refer to them, as Dama, Daman, Damab, the only exception are the #Nu-Khoi which are now commonly known as Damaras!
That makes you, Professor Diescho, “a Damab” just like all Bantu (black) people (From correct historical perspective). And it is because of this reference to all black people as Dama or Damaras that we have all bad attributes by the segments of Bantu and Nguni groups.
Documented stories, “Narrative of a Tropical South West Africa-1853,” by travelling adventurers such as Sir Francis Galton through the interior of South Africa of those times clearly pointed out that the #Nu-Khoi were not known initially as confusion reigned supreme.
During his period in the country now known as Namibia, adventurer Sir Francis Galton made reference to Damaras as warlike, pastoral blacks which is clearly the Ovaherero who were back then the only or rather the biggest pastoralist in this country. It is only when Francis Galton made reference to “Okahikene” that the reader is drawn to the fact it was Ovaherero who he was talking about and not the #Nu-Khoi, the prototype of the modern Damara people.
It was the preceding accounts of expedition leaders Peter Brand and Willem van Reenen (both Dutch) around 1791 who pointed out that indeed the #Nu-Khoi the prototype of modern Damaras were different from the Ovaherero or other black people such as Ngunis (Zulus, Xhosas etc.) as well as the Caprivians, VaKavango, Aawambo, Ovaherero, Batswana because they were speaking the languages with click sounds.
Later on, other academics such as Dr Lepzeilter traced the roots of the #Nu-Khoi the prototype of modern Damaras back to 1390 (this period spanning six hundred years) and identified their earliest leader as A-!a-Nanub and Narirab, and the main body of the #Nu-Khoi the prototype of the modern Damaras spread after latter was killed in a battle over the salt pans of the Etosha (“the great white place”).
These are the true facts about some of our people. I have also traced back via oral history the roots of one of the important prehistoric figures of the #Nu-Khoi known as //Naita-//Nanaseb, essentially a man who was closely connected to the pre-historic generations.
It is a well-known fact amongst the most #Nu-Khoi (the prototype of the modern Damara of today) that //Naita-//Nanaseb had drawn up, using sticks of course, the village structure and living quarters of his generation as can be seen from the pictures reproduced by “Missionary” Heinrich Vedder who arrived in this country around 1903. If a title could be given to the great //Naita-//Nanaseb, he would be known as a member of the Freemans because, not only did he reportedly draw up settlement structures, but he introduced a midwifery system to ensure survival of the #Nu-Khoi for centuries to come, and he located and simplified medicine from roots, food science such as honey pockets, and was gifted with hypnotic powers! Oh yes, the depiction by you of the #Nu-khoi as people without traditional authority and without a supreme leader with their authorities and command structures is clearly devoid of all truth!
Please take note that when I talk about #Nu-Khoi, I am making reference to the all-inclusive tribe of the Khoi (Khoi-Khoi). People who speak the click languages including the Hadzabe in Tanzania and elsewhere in Africa and of whom are the #Nu-Khoi just like the various segments of San and !Kung! Now, allow me to look at the fate of many an ancient click sound-speaking people in Africa.
Members of the dwindling Hadzabe tribe used the huge hunting land as inhabitable playground for centuries just like #Nu-Khoi, the Hai-//Om and the !Kung which was really like a proverbial “Garden of Eden” and they had little trouble sustaining an enviable lifestyle of hunting, gathering, sharing and chilling out, and chatting in their click-based language. Their cupboard was well stashed. And the tedious concepts of time, a cash economy, the nuclear family, and the Victorian work ethic had yet to complicate the bliss of their simple existence. Like Adam and Eve, I guess.
Today Eden is not what it used to be. Like the !Kung and Khwe of the Kalahari, and #Nu-Khoi who liked to inhabit the inhospitable mountainous areas of this beautiful land called Namibia today. In due course, the Hadzabe, just like the #Nu-Khoi, the Hai-//Om and the !Kung have begun surrendering their land and their lifestyle to the pressures of more developed societies. First the incoming Ovaherero pastoralists herd their cattle along the paths of our people, and many more tribespeople (Caprivians, VaKavango, Aawambo, Ovaherero, Batswana, the Basters and even the Boers) who brought their hoes and their animals to this green garden.
While they (#Nu-Khoi, and especially the Hai-//Om and the !Kung) survived the coming of agriculture, metal, guns, disease, missionaries, poachers, euro-centric anthropologists, omnipresent euro-centric journalists, corrugated steel houses and encroaching pastoral tribes who often impersonate them for colonialist money, the resilient first inhabitants of Namibia are still being called names by people like Professor Diescho – instead of using his massive intellect to advance their situation with the rest of other advanced Namibians. It’s a shame!
So some of our own people, especially the Hai-//Om and the !Kung and the Himba with the Themba, all survived the pressures of metal, guns, diseases, missionaries, poachers, anthropologists, greedy journalists, corrugated steel houses and encroaching pastoral tribes just to fall at the last to the entertainment preferences of a privileged group of foreigners, who seemingly have no regard for what they probably consider to be primitive humans – sad to see that almost nothing has changed in the last few hundred years and Diescho appears to be promoting the ideals of the after-effects of the 1884 Berlin Conference instead of helping to undo them through efforts like the Harambee Prosperity Plan.
Seth Mataba Boois