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Home / Elcin agitates for olufuko name change…church finds festival divisive, repulsive

Elcin agitates for olufuko name change…church finds festival divisive, repulsive

2022-03-24  Loide Jason

Elcin agitates for olufuko name change…church finds festival divisive, repulsive
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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia has proposed to the Outapi Town Council to rename the Olufuko Cultural Festival for church members to be able to participate in the event as the current name is repulsive.

The proposal was made late last year when the church leaders paid a courtesy visit to the town council. Olufuko is an initiation process where girls between the ages of 15 to 20 are prepared for womanhood. This means they are taught how to do traditional chores at home such as pounding mahangu, cooking, cultivating and understanding the roles of men and women in society, and recently the impact of HIV/AIDS, STDs and other illnesses in society. The modern festival, hosted by the Outapi Town Council, was officially opened on 23 August 2012 by Founding President Sam Nujoma after being dormant for decades. Olufuko can be defined as a wedding in Oshiwambo.

The festival has divided opinion since 2012. In 2019, human rights organisation NamRights asked the High Court to have the olufuko traditional initiation ceremony declared unconstitutional and a violation of human rights. 

It described the festival as a coercive sexual initiation ritual and a harmful traditional practice that encourages forced child marriages, early sexual activity, and early pregnancy and childbirth. 

NamRights claimed the ceremony violated the constitutional rights of the girls participating in it, and is in breach of international human rights treaties to which Namibia is a party.

However, NamRights lost the case.

It would be a recipe for chaos and confusion in the business of the court if any “busybody, meddling and misguided crusader” would be permitted to approach the court while they did not have the required legal standing in a case, judge Collins Parker commented.

Although the organisers of the cultural festival said there will be no olufuko this year due to the limited number of people at a public gathering as a regulation of Covid-19, they said the proposal by the Elcin church wants to divert the ideology of the event.

In the proposal letter submitted by retired bishop Veikko Munyika of the Western Diocese, they indicate that the parishes are hesitant to attend the festival because it is repulsive and divisive.

“Our experience about olufuko is that it tends to divide than to unite our people. It is repulsive. A number of its customers, especially parishes, are hesitant to attend and this affects the desired outcome of the trade fair negatively,” the proposal letter argued. During the meeting at the town council, the church leaders told the organisers that they must either change the name to the Outapi Trade Fair, or remove the name from the main entrance and take it to the unit entrance of the traditional house within the centre.

“This would mean olufuko becomes the only unit where its activities are confined. Customers who wish to participate in olufuko activities do so by own choice, while others continue to participate in other units such as sales and shows within the same centre,” read the proposal letter seen by New Era.

Approached for comment, Munyika confirmed that the church is encouraging the Elcin Western Diocese parishes to participate in the trade at olufuko to build the economy, but said he is no longer in a position to comment as he is retired.

The acting executive secretary for the diocese, Esron Kapolo, also confirmed the meeting with the town council and the proposal made. However, he referred queries to the diocese moderator Gideon Niitenge.  Niitenge confirmed the proposal and said, “we are waiting for feedback from the town council on whether they are going to change the name or not.”

The CEO of Outapi, Nashilongo Ananias, explained that they have forwarded the proposal to the organising committee for action. “However, some of the elements would want to force us to divert from our ideology of promoting culture to promoting business activities, which is not fair. But we are waiting for the committee to pronounce itself,” he stated.

He said olufuko is only expected to be hosted next year if the number of people per public gathering is increased to at least 5 000. 

2022-03-24  Loide Jason

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