• July 21st, 2019
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A tribute to the Queen of Church Music


Dr Peya Mushelenga, MP

Musical chords from organs and pianos add flavours to hymns and they uplift the spirits of worshipers during church services, giving them the imaginations of the songs of angels and cherubs. This is particularly true when one has the likes of Tuovi-Kaarina Pennanen behind the church organ keyboard.   

Born in Tsumeb, Namibia, on 23 August 1936 to Reverend Eino and Teacher Eva Pennanen, who worked as Finnish missionaries in Nkurenkuru, Kavango West Region, from 1934 to 1947, she attended primary school in Swakopmund until the age of 11 when she left for Finland, where she continued her senior primary and secondary education. Pennanen graduated from the University of Helsinki with the Master of Theology degree. She also studied music.

Upon returning to Namibia in 1963, Pennanen taught at Ongwediva Teachers Training Seminary, and later at Oshigambo High School, from the early to mid-1970s, as well as briefly in 1989. Pennanen’s teaching subjects included English and Mathematics, where she adopted specialised teaching methods that was tailor-made to the abilities of individual learners. This was to ensure that learners at different levels understanding were taken along at their respective paces. What a considerate teacher!

At home, Pennanen was a much-sought-after cook. Her favourite dishes included couscous. Guests salivated when she was in the kitchen, knowing that the tongue-enrapturing meal was on its way. She was fond of baking cakes and people looked forward to her mouth-watering bakeries, delicacies that were not widely available in a pre-independent Namibia. She shared her meals with her neighbours, friends and learners. 

Pennanen kept cat pets that she was so much fond of and further loved watching wildlife documentaries. A contrasting irony about Pennanen’s attributes was that while she was so much into the fauna, she was not your lady for the flora. Forget about Pennanen running around with gardening tools to plant trees, veggies, flowers and the likes. Pennanen was an avid reader, who kept a library at home to gain wider understanding and expertise in various fields. This made her a spring of wisdom and fountain of knowledge.

Though she had no children of her own, Pennanen was motherly and young girls from the families of her Namibian friends frequently stayed at her house and comfortably felt at home in her folds. In general, a quiet person, she would nevertheless find time to visit her neighbours and attend parties and feasts of her close friends. As a Namibian-born Finn, she had distinct characteristics from other missionaries, that of a strong attachment to the country. Namibia ran through her blood veins, mind and dreams. Accordingly, she declared herself as a member of the Ovakwamhalanga clan and kept their elephant totem symbol.

In 1986, Pennanen assumed the position of Liaison Secretary for the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM), bringing her at the decision-making centre of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (Elcin). As a member of the Church Council, she made valuable contributions to the church budget and programmes. Mind you, she was a trained theologian and, therefore, fully understood the core functions of the church. 

Pennanen contributed a great deal to musical work in Elcin. She was the key person in producing Elcin’s hymn books, Ehangano and Marusumo, the projects that she worked on with passion and dedication. Indeed, music was her hobby at home. She warmed the cockles of the parishioners’ hearts as they followed the rhythm beats of an apparatus that sings. Our girl of Finnish roots had a way of captivating pastors and bishops’ morale as her fingers gently pressed that mellifluous appliance. 

I have run out of words to describe her dexterous handling of the church organ keyboards, producing an eardrums-nurturing and soul-massaging melody. Believe me! you have missed out big time if you haven’t seen her doing what she could do best with the imported musical instrument in the Oniipa Elcin Cathedral. Eish! Those were moments when birds from Oniihandi and Ondando villages would stop chirping to give her a chance; Olombongo market would come to a standstill; Missionary Kalliokoski’s cattle would stop grazing to listen; And guess what? Patients in Onandjokwe hospital would stabilise in a blink of an eye. Oh, yes! the queen of “DO-RE-MI-FA-SO-LA-TI-DO” often gave them feelings as if they were listening to hymns by the angels and cherubs from the paradise. 

Pennanen returned to Finland towards the end of 1990s and settled in Rauma, Finland, where she continued to work closely with Elcin’s musical services. She departed to eternity on 29 April 2019, after a long illness. Mene hyvin laulamaan enkelien kanssa!

* Dr Peya Mushelenga is the Minister of Urban and Rural Development


Staff Reporter
2019-05-10 09:38:25 2 months ago

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