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Elderly woodcarver defies the odds

2021-08-17  Obrien Simasiku

Elderly woodcarver defies the odds
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When life gets tough, many people quit or end up taking their own lives as they relent to the hardships they are enduring. Some simply resort to begging and any sort of illegal activities. 

However, tough times turned out to be the best encouragement for Daniel Shikunga (81), an Angolan by birth, who migrated to Namibia in 1952. He settled in Rundu, now Kavango East, in search of a better life. 

Born in 1940, the woodcarver says he fled from war-torn Angola in search of peace and a better life. Little did he know that Namibia was facing a similar battle of the liberation struggle. Since then, he navigated his way through the local areas until he learned woodcarving. 

The senior citizen, who has inspired many young people, says he began to master the art in 1978, and started making different products he sold to locals in order to put bread on the table. Shortly after independence, Shikunga obtained national documents, which now enables him to benefit from government’s pension grant. 

“I have never gone back to Angola since then. I got married and had children before I moved to Ondangwa, where I was making coffins until 2018. I then shifted to Asino village after hearing that there were plenty of trees,” narrates the self-taught octogenarian with 43 years of experience. 

Driving approximately 150 kilometres to the far north-east of Omuthiya to the tiny village of Asino through Onyati all the way to Onkumbula in the deep rural areas of Oshikoto, one finds Shikunga in what seems to be no man’s land, surrounded by Kiaat trees. 

“Here, I have found the gold, and I am settled as the tree resources are in abundance. However, I am getting old, and I am trying to teach young people to come on board so that they can continue the work,” he said. 

He produces furniture, which he sells at Onkumbula in the Oshikoto region. 

“With my advanced age now, it has become difficult for me to chop down trees. Hence, I am appealing to government or Good Samaritans to assist me with equipment, more especially a chainsaw,” added Shikunga, who was found wearing old blue overalls at work with his two employees.

 Due to the poor road network which requires four-wheel-drive vehicles, he also appealed to government to prioritise roads infrastructure as well as electricity provision.

The councillor of Okankolo, Hans Nambondi, conceded that poor roads infrastructure was making it difficult for the community to access basic services as there are no means of transport. 

In terms of the project, he said “all youth should come through to tap from Shikunga’s wisdom and knowledge. This does not require any qualification, but one’s own physical capabilities.”


Ministry intervention 

The Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade last week visited Shikunga’s workshop to inspect and assess how he could be assisted. 

“We have seen the good work he is doing, and we have taken note of the challenges he faces as well. It is indeed a viable project, and we shall see how and in what form we can help,” said the ministry’s chief economist Elisia Muhongo.  

Despite this willingness from the ministry, the fact that it’s an unregistered business will be the stumbling block. 


2021-08-17  Obrien Simasiku

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