The Omagongo cultural festival that was supposed to be hosted by the Ombalantu Traditional Authority will not take place due to Covid-19. This was confirmed by the chairperson of the northern traditional authorities, chief Herman Ndilimani Iipumbu.
Iipumbu told New Era that the traditional authority decided that the cultural festival will only take place next year, if the situation allows.
The hosting of the festival is rotated amongst eight northern traditional authorities: Uukwaluudhi, Ombalantu, Ombadja, Uukolonkadhi, Ondonga, Uukwambi, Ongandjera and Oukwanyama. The festival can be held anytime from February to May, depending on the marula harvest from which the omagongo juice is extracted.
The event was last celebrated by the Ongandjera Traditional Authority in 2019, and was supposed to be hosted next by the Ombalantu Traditional Authority. Since then, it was never celebrated.
“When the president made an adjustment to the Covid-19 regulations and increased the number of people per gathering to 500, it was too late for us to prepare and organise the historical event,” Iipumbu explained.
Because of that, the traditional authority, through the traditional courts, opted to go for a recess to allow traditional leaders and their subjects to concentrate on the festivities of the seasonal alcoholic beverage of omagongo.
With the exemption of the Ondonga Traditional Authority, most major traditional authorities have confirmed that they have indeed suspended their official activities, including traditional courts.
Last week, a senior councillor who is also the spokesperson of the Oukwanyama Traditional Authority, Elias Waandja, announced that all traditional courts as well as other official activities for his traditional authority would be suspended, effective from 1 March until 1 April 2022. The Uukwambi, Ongandjera and Ombalantu traditional authorities also confirmed that they have taken a recess for the period.
Since time immemorial, the omagongo beverage, which is made of 100% fermented marula juice, has brought together chiefs and commoners in the northern parts of the country, and it is considered as the finest liquor bringing together villagers to share a clay pot or two.
Omagongo is normally consumed for free by adults in every household, and villagers would walk in groups from one house to another from sunrise to sunset – drinking. No one is allowed to carry any form of weapon during the season, and this is the only restriction.
“One is not allowed to carry a knobkierie, knife, panga, bow and arrows, gun or any form of weapon. People’s sense of judgement is considered weak during this season, and they can act irrationally when under the influence of alcohol, even when not provoked,” said chief Iipumbu of the Uukwambi Traditional Authority.
The same applies to witnesses, plaintiffs, complainants and even the judges at traditional courts.
“This is the reason why we traditionally suspend official activities.”