• June 2nd, 2020

A rainbow of cultures is healthy for our nation

Professor Jairos Kangira

Two male drummers take their positions at the centre of the stage, pounding their drums in traditional style. This is only a harbinger of what is to follow – a forerunner of the great cultural performance to come. As the drumbeat reaches a crescendo, all hell breaks loose. 

The stage is invaded by an ensemble of university female and male dancers and singers – all neatly dressed only to the waist in their traditional attire made of reeds – tidy reeds-knitted costumes. The dancers contort and gyrate their bodies in a spectacular way – some women do so in a provocative way. It is like their waists are loose, rotating on some greased metal balls.  As the contortion and gyration of bodies intensify, the dancers receive incessant standing ovations from the crowd. The dancers seem oblivious of the crowd’s applauses as they seem to be in a trance, communicating with their ancestral spirits. The man seated next to me nudges me and says, “Those students are from the Zambezi Region.”

The scenario described above was one of the many breathtaking and amazing performances at this year’s University of Namibia cultural festival that took place last week. At this annual function, several cultural groups displayed their cultures in such an atmosphere that can be described as an array of a rainbow of cultures, mainly indigenous cultures. Khoisan students, Oshiwambo students, Damara, Afrikaans, Otjiherero, Nama, Okavango, Tswana students – one could go on and on – not to be outdone by other groups, all showcased their songs and dances in outstanding ways. The performance were marvellous. The costumes were colorful and appealing in all instances. 

It was not song and dance only. There were also traditional cuisines – the mouth-watering food - that flavourful, palatable food that is part of different cultures. The sweet smell of the different cuisines blended in the air. One got confused as to which direction to take to the favourite meal. So people moved from one stall to the next satisfying their appetites. It was incredulous!

 Not only was it pleasing to witness different Namibian cultures, but it was also pleasing to note the peacefulness and the celebratory mood that existed throughout the cultural festival. Truly speaking, the unity in diversity mantra is characteristic of Namibians. The University students demonstrated this by tolerance of other people’s cultures. It therefore goes without saying that the cultural festival activities promote broadmindedness, permissiveness   and tolerance in students who come from different cultural backgrounds in Namibia. In other words, celebrating a rainbow of cultures is healthy for the Namibian nation. Celebrating different cultures is one way of fighting the ugly head of tribalism. It is commendable that cultural festivals are held at preschool, primary school secondary school and tertiary levels in Namibia. Catching children young is important as they grow up appreciating other people’s cultures. As they get into adulthood, they respect other people’s cultures in order and this brings peaceful co-existence. It promotes a culture of peace in our society.

Culture is group’s ways of life which includes, among other things, language, music, social values, beliefs, arts, cuisines, religion, and customs. 

Considering all that culture comprises all these aspects, and that we have several cultures in Namibia, is it not feasible for one of our state universities to launch an intercultural department or centre to research into these cultures and document them for the sake of their survival?  There could be a fully-fledged degree programme on the indigenous cultures comprising different courses, including languages, artefacts, and indigenous knowledge of different language groups in namibia. Such a department or centre or institute – whatever name it may be given – can act as rallying point for the development and preservation of all indigenous cultures and languages in Namibia. Students studying medicine, science, engineering, agriculture and social sciences, for instance, may be required to take some courses on the Namibian cultures to make them fully understand and appreciate the local communities. Funding from government and industry is needed to start such a centre in Nambia where research into indigenous cultures and languages will be order of the day. This is feasible and doable. What is needed is foresight and vision – it will pay dividends in the end.

A brief reference to the University of Melbourne’s serious consideration of indigenous cultures can give some direction on this issue. It is heartening  and encouraging to note that the University of Melbourne will spend sixty million Australian dollars in the construction of an institute that will be used in the research on and promote the indigenous knowledge of the Aborigines. The Aborigines are the indigenous or native people of Australia who are largely marginalised. The institute will also research into the lives of indigenous people around the world.

“The Institute (Indigenous Knowledge Institute) will be a centre and gathering place for Aboriginal knowledge in all its forms. It will respect, celebrate and become a magnet for knowledge of other Indigenous First Nations people from around the world,” University of Melbourne Alumni e-News quoted Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell recently.
Namibia can also do it. 

This article would not have done justice without commending the Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma for his continued efforts and support of the Olufuko festival in northern Namibia. It is hoped that one day, when we have indigenous cultures in our higher education system, Olufuko will be one of the main courses or topics in the curriculum. This will definitely happen one day when successfully decolonise our education system.

Professor Jairos Kangira is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. He writes on his own accord. Email address:kjairos@gmail.com

Staff Reporter
2019-08-23 08:01:47 | 9 months ago

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