OKOMBAHE – The emotions and excitement were palpable in the quiet town of Okombahe on Saturday as the ‡Nūkhoen descended on it in eager anticipation of the 46th annual Damara cultural festival, also known as the ‘Gaob Fees’.
This festival in the Erongo region serves as a cornerstone for uniting the diverse Damara tribes while offering a vibrant showcase of their rich culture and age-old traditions, with a particular focus on imparting this heritage to the younger generation.
This year’s celebration held a special place in the hearts of the Damara people, who had waited decades for this moment. It marked the second time in the festival’s history that Namibian President Hage Geingob graced the festivities, acknowledging his deep connection to Damara culture and traditions.
The last time the president attended was during his tenure as the country’s prime minister, and his absence since has caused concern that he was neglecting this important facet of his heritage. However, on Saturday, everyone knew that he would finally be there, and the anticipation was electric. Residents eagerly gathered in the open space, some practising their routines one last time so that everything would be perfect for the arrival of the president.
The patiently waiting crowd then spotted the president’s helicopter in the air, and erupted in song and dance, celebrating the “return of their prodigal son” to his ancestral land.
“I am overjoyed that the president is here amongst us at last. We have longed for his presence for so many years,” said Amalia Xamgamus.
Her sentiments were shared by many, and some could not hold back their emotions, knowing that the president was now in their midst.
“As a ‡Nūkhoe person, I feel an immense sense of pride. This is a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life. Without his attendance at our festival, my grandchildren might never have had the opportunity to see the president up close. We deeply appreciate that he has finally made time to join us,” she beamed.
Rachell Gaugorus could also not hide her joy, emphasising the importance of the president’s presence for her, a young ‡Nūkhoe person.
“We wholeheartedly thank him, and hope he will attend more festivals. Our cultural heritage is a treasure, and having our leaders amongst us is an inspiration for us young people to be active in preserving our traditions,” she said.
“We’ve been blessed with a remarkable gift. It is a rare occurrence to have the leader of our country, along with his wife, visit our humble land. I am immensely proud of him; he is our son too. We are grateful that he attended this festival as he approaches the end of his presidential term,” observed Justus |Uruhe ||Garoëb, who has always been at the centre-stage of the celebrations.
Politician Apius Auchab reflected on the significance of the day, noting that while the president attended the festival during his time as prime minister, this moment marked a pivotal day in the history of the Damara people. He recognised that it was disappointing to see the president engage in various other festivals but not their own, despite sharing their culture.
However, Auchab acknowledged that it wasn’t the president’s fault alone for not attending all these years. Sometimes, the invitations were delayed, and the president’s hectic schedule, including international responsibilities, posed challenges.
Finally, the president took the podium, much to the delight of the people. “I am the president of the country, not a tribal president. Did you hear my words? Are you happy now that I am here and that you have heard my voice? Hoxai,” Geingob declared, leaving a profound impact on the gathered crowd that will be remembered for years to come.
As part of his return, the president and First Lady Monica Geingos were welcomed with traditional rituals and chants. The first couple also witnessed the lighting of the Ancestral Fire of Unity ritual. - email@example.com