Namibia: A Melting Pot of Storytelling and Tradition … Nama Cultural Festival Exceeds Expectations a Me

THE annual Nama cultural festival, which took place this past weekend at Keetmanshoop in the //Kharas region, was a melting pot of storytelling and traditional cuisine and attire.

The festival, which was initiated in 2018, is aimed at preserving the unique heritage of the Nama people, and creates a platform for the transgenerational transfer of knowledge.

The chairperson of the festival, Valery Isaacks, says the festival exceeded the organisers’ expectations.

“This festival is a platform for our people. Leaders from various traditional authorities came to share their knowledge and expertise with the locals. We had government leaders, many youth leaders as well, and the attendance was exceptional,” she says.

A highlight of the festival, held under the theme ‘Unity is Our Strength’, was the cultural village.

The village hosted a real traditional wedding to teach young people the norms, values and reasons for cultural practices.

Panel discussions on the Nama-Herero genocide, the subsequent generational trauma, and the significance of Nama traditional leaders were held.

Festival spokesperson Antonio Stuurman says young people need to understand that developing the community requires adequate leadership, displaying foresight, knowledge and bravery.

“Many times we do not realise the sacrifices made by our leaders in the resistance wars and the bravery displayed. It is necessary that leaders explain the characteristics required for leadership, so that the current generation can inherit the mantle of leadership from them,” he says.

Roswitha Andreas, who visited the festival from Karasburg, says preparation to attend the conference starts months in advance.

This involves preparing clothing, jewellery, artefacts, and food for display and selling.

“This year, I had four designers prepare dresses I wore to the festival. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to honour our heritage and show that it still has a vital place in the 21st century,” Andreas says.

Isaaks says talks are underway to patent traditional items, as well as register them for intellectual property protection.

“We have drafted a framework for patents and intellectual property protection. We first want the communities’ input on what items they want under intellectual protection, and we are engaging other knowledgable people to assist us,” she says.

Speaking at the festival’s opening ceremony, president Hage Geingob, in a speech read on his behalf by minister in the Presidency Christine //Ho√ębes, urged the communities to use culture, norms, traditions and knowledge for development and sustenance of communities instead of tribalism and ethnic divisions.

“We need to focus on aspects of our cultural identity that can inspire positive change, discipline, patriotism and unity in the interests of building our nation.

“In the Namibian House we take pride in our culture and our tribes, but we do not promote any ‘isms’. Therefore we refrain from engaging in tribalism, racism, sexism, nepotism and fascism,” Geingob said.

Traditional authorities from Botswana and South Africa attended the festival.

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