• May 29th, 2020

Dr Kaputu’s doctoral inaugural lecture and Pan Afrikanism

Gerson Uaripi Tjihenuna

On 26 September 2019, I was part of an audience that attended the above lecture hosted by the NBC Omurari Service. 

Earlier on that day, Unam had bestowed an honorary doctorate degree on Jarimbovandu Kaputu for his expertise in the culture of Ovaherero people.

Dr Kaputu is a living legend and his expertise in Otjiherero language and culture is beyond compare. 
I think his recognition was, by any stretch of imagination, long overdue.  
Dr Kaputu is to Ovaherero culture what Shakespeare is to the English culture or what Langenhoven is to the Afrikaans culture. 

One speaker at that occasion made reference to the fact that the translation of HIV and AIDS as Ondui ye Hinga and Ehinga in Otjiherero language – that has become common currency – was Dr Kaputu’s invention.

That means that he is not only a master of metaphor who has a way with words, but he has invented new words too, thus contributing to the growth of a language he so much loves.
After many speakers had spoken, Dr Kaputu eventually took the floor and the audience gave him a befitting standing ovation. 

He delivered his lecture with eloquence and in style, keeping his audience spell-bound for about 20 minutes. 

The listeners held unto every word that this great historian, poet, philosopher and cultural activist uttered; and you could almost hear a pin dropping.

You could tell that Jarii – as he is popularly known - was in his element. 
He eloquently narrated the family lineages of some of the outstanding Ovaherero warriors who made a name for themselves during the 1904 – 1908 anti-colonial war of resistance. 

He then went on to give a graphing account of some of the battles according to the different geographic locations where these battles had taken place. 

Dr Kaputu informed his listeners that he had learnt about the Ovaherero history and culture at the feet of his late mother whom he described in rich and colourful tones. 

In referring to his beloved late mother, he almost lost composure as emotions got the better of him, but he immediately gathered himself. 

Colonialism was not only a political and economic project; but a cultural project too. 
The cultural impact of colonialism has been more damaging, because after many years of political independence, many Afrikan are still struggling to embrace their own cultural identity. 

Many Afrikan would fall over themselves to try to speak a European language with a “cultured” accent, while those who are fluent in their own Afrikaans languages are often ridiculed. 
Dr Kaputu’s teachings, in his own native language, are a major contribution to the greater, but fragmented, Pan Afrikan identity. 

It is about the self-definition and self-identification of all of us regardless of ethnic origin. 
A few years back before I started to pay serious attention to the Pan Afrikan cause, I used to think that Pan Afrikanism was just some kind of intellectual romanticism. 

When I started to reflect seriously on Pan Afrikanism, I came to the “sobering” realisation that this was about who we were as a people. 

To borrow a phrase from Ali Mazrui, we could cease to be many things, but we cannot cease to be Afrikan. 

The black race has gone through many dehumanising experiences e.g. the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonialism and all manner of discrimination and degradation. 

This, in turn, has led to inferiority complex and negative self-image because, for the most part, we have been defined by others - and not in the most positive of terms to say the least.
This definition has mainly been in the shadows of others where we are defined as “outsiders” who are “not good enough” according to Eurocentric standards. 

Sadly, most of our people have come to accept that ‘definition.’ 
The problem with race-based inferiority complex is that, for the most part, the victim does not seem to be aware that he/she is a victim.

We should create our own space to tell our own story. 
For too long our story has been told by others. 

As the saying goes “…as long as the antelope does not tell its own story, hunting will continue to be told from the hunter’s perspective.” 

In the simplest of terms, the Kaputu narrative is basically about telling our own story, as Afrikans, in the broad sense of that word.

However, the dichotomy of Dr Kaputu’s teachings lies in the fact that it is difficult to tell his story to a wider audience in English.  

His teachings cannot be rendered effectively in a Western language without losing originality and depth.  
English words are too foreign and distant to describe the measure of this immersion narrator who is steeped in the history and culture of his people. 

*Gerson Uaripi Tjihenuna is the Director in the Office of the Speaker of the National Assembly and a Commissioner at the Electoral Commission of Namibia. However, the views expressed here are his own and not those of the two institutions. 

Staff Reporter
2019-10-04 08:15:07 | 7 months ago

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