WINDHOEK- “From old Mother Africa she sprang
When yesterday touched tomorrow
Born of rusted sands and salted tear
Into a land of bones and strangers
White cows graze on the sacred graves
The homestead longs for its holy fire
The ancestors call, but no one hears,
For their future sleeps in the sand,” bellowed Namibia’s Afro-pop king, Big Ben last Thursday in the Katutura Community Hall as he gave a rendition of the song, Mama Namibia. The lyrics are indeed from a novel similarly titled based on the 1904 Genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama at the hands of Imperial Germany’s forces. “Now the 1904 genocide has a face- a 12-year-old girl,” reads an advertisement flyer on the novel by Mari Serebrov. The story, which is based on the true and factual trials and tribulations of Ovaherero and Nama during the early years of colonial resistance against Imperial Germany which eventually led to the two extermination orders against the Ovaherero and Nama in 1904 and 1905 respectively, centres around the 12-year-old Jahohora’s searches for her family while hiding from German soldiers. It’s 1904 and Germany has claimed all of South West Africa. Since the Ovaherero would rather fight than surrender their ancestral homes, General Lothar von Trotha has declared that they all should be forced into the Omaheke sand dune to die. Wasting away in the desert, Jahorora is about to give up her desperate struggle for life when she finds hope in a simple act of kindness from a Jewish doctor serving in the German army.
Acquiring the book only recently, I must admit I have been hooked on it since. In fact it is a misnomer to categorise it as a novel because as much as detached as it may from the actual happening 109 years ago, it is far from a novel account of what happened then to the Ovaherero and Nama. Rather for those who may have been bored by repeated accounts of what happened then, Mama Namibia is bound to eliminate such boredom in captivating and detach tell-tale of what transpired then, something descendants of the victims of Imperial Germany’s excesses are still to this day feeling the heavy yoke thereof. As well as being an entertaining reading that at time makes one forgets the trials and tribulations of Jahohora, and of course her people then, the novel is a historical-educative piece of writing on the history of the Ovaherero and Nam avis-a-vis Imperial Germany, that hitherto, at best have only been confined to oral transmission to only latter generations of these people and which has for some reasons been ominously removed from the remit of other Namibians. At least until 2004 when Imperial Germany’s excesses in the then South West Africa (Namibia) became an open book with the centenary commemoration of the wars of resistance by the Namibia people, and especially the Extermination Order by General von Trotha issued against the Ovaherero on October 2, 1904. This commemoration led to the return of the skulls of Imperial Germany’s war victims in 2011 which further removed the veil of secrecy that has been hanging over this abominable history. And no doubt Mama Namibia is bound to further uncover this veil of secrecy as well as interest those who may have been scoffing off this history as mere propaganda and non-reconciliatory. A must read especially for the latter-day generation.
As expected the launch attracted a small but relevant and pertinent audience among them Ovaherero Paramount Chief , Kuaima Riruako, as well as the Chairperson of the Nama Genocide Technical Committee, Ida Hoffman. The launch indeed turned into a warlike spectre as paratroopers of the Green and Red flags vibrated the hall into crescendo of battle cries reminiscent of the actual events 109 years ago when the Ovaherero and Nama showed unflinching bravery against the modern armoury might of Imperial Germany. Mama Namibia is available in most book stores in Windhoek although good authority informs that some have been reluctant to stock it. Still only in the beginning pages of the novel, I only wonder whether I would want to finish because every page is a compelling reading, not only in terms of the resistance history of the Namibian people, but their cultural history as well.
By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro New Era Reporter
2013-09-20 13:34:40 | 6 years ago