The 500 years in which whiteness consolidated the systematic exploitation, subjugation and patronising of black people presents a daunting task to black consciousness activists pursuing mental liberation. This is more so given the failure of the liberating generation to address this question. To resolve this dilemma, black consciousness attempts to generate a sound understanding of the colonial question from colonialism, coloniality and a decolonisation perspective.
What is not often said is that at times blacks are their own enemies. Frantz Fanon understood; “the black man among his own in the twentieth century does not know at what moment his inferiority comes into being through the other”.
Steve Biko adds, “…the black man in himself has developed a certain state of alienation. He rejects himself, precisely because he attaches the meaning of white to all that is good; in other words he associates good – and he equates good – with white”.
For our context, the question is this; how does one champion the cause of black consciousness in a non-racial capitalist democratic society?
Of the concomitant actions that are required to address the black question, knowledge and confidence of self, particularly for black youth, is sacrosanct. Consider what comes to mind when black learners hear the word ‘tour’, coastal areas and lodges. In their minds, the term hardly relates to sites in their villages and other black communities.
It is for this reason that you find a young person, as old as 30, aspiring to travel to Europe while having failed to travel to all corners of his or her own village. Scandalously, our society does not see anything wrong with this moronic state of affairs.
I recently decided to distinguish myself from such statistics of the youth. Given that I have been to every corner of Omaalala, I decided to tour Ondongaland. It was a rewarding experience.
Indeed, there is a lot to learn from black communities. What many do not realise is how cheap it is touring black communities. Aandonga, in building their homes, always made provision for visitors accommodation – one, therefore, doesn’t need to pay for accommodation. Food and drinks are also for free. If one is lucky, chickens and goats are easily slaughtered in your honour.
This was indeed the case during an episode that saw me touring villages such as Oshali, Onalulago, Omadhiya and Oniimwandi. I spent most of my time during my tour in Oshali – referred to by the locals as ‘Oshali shaHileni yaMwandingi’. “Stop here,” requested an old man accompanying me as we approached an omukwiyu tree.
He then told me many stories that happened around that area in the 1960s. While stories of the suffering of children and youth are well documented, particularly in the Aandonga story books, what is often not spoken of are the responses of youth to such suffering and exploitation. The youth are often presented as docile and amenable to exploitation and suffering on account of ‘respect of elders’.
Youth, in the history of the Aawambo, suffered because of traditions and customs on the one hand and because of greed. Indeed, stories of greedy and food-loving adults are common.
Consider the years of manipulation that created an order that certain foods were reserved for elders. For a long time, Aawambo youth were told that things such as an oxen’s tongue were not meant for children, amongst many others.
In this sphere, the Aawambo youth received the same treatment as a dog that follows an owner on a hunting escapade. After succeeding in catching a rabbit (okalimba) at full speed, the owner would immediately expropriate okalimba to take to his wife or daughters to cook. The only thing that the dog would get are the bones that come from the owner’s mouth if at all they are thrown in his or her direction, and not that of a salivating cat.
This is the same attitude that some Aawambo politicians, and those who have adopted this state of mind, bring to the conduct of governance.
It has not occurred to these traditional opportunists that the dogs of today are not in the business of accepting bones. While we are made to believe that the Aawambo youth accepted such repression, the oral historical accounts from Oshali shaHileni yamwandingi proves otherwise.
Let us return to the stories told at the Omukwiyu tree when the old man asked me to stop.
There was this boy who was regarded as well mannered and obeyed all instructions. He was a specialist in slaughtering dogs for the elderly men. For those unaware, to the Aandonga dog meat has always been a delicacy. Although he performed this important task, he was only allowed to eat intestines. One day he got tired of intestines resolving to teach the selfish elders a lesson.
Since they were regarded as not ideal for consumption, the testicles, rectum and penis would be removed and buried. Due to the frustrations emanating from his mistreatment, he one day decided to carefully and skilfully prepare these (testicles, rectum and penis) as part of the ready-to-cook meat. The penis was presented as ekokotenga (cartilage – a resilient and smooth elastic tissue) reserved for strong men with strong teeth.
The salivating elders were unsuspecting. Although it is said that the elders physically dealt with this boy upon discovering that he had fed them these things, the community started doing away with some of these exploitative tendencies.
What emerges clearly from Oshali shaHileni yaMwandingi is that the Aandonga youth have a history of opposing autocracy and acts of man’s inhumanity to man. The lesson for Namibian youth is that there is no reason why they should accept bones from the okalimba they have single-handedly caught.
* Job Shipululo Amupanda is a youth from Omaalala village in Ondonga.