• November 12th, 2019

Revered Ovambadja heroes: King Shahula shaHamadila and King Sheetekela shaHuudulu

Prior to the colonisation of Namibia, the territory that lies between the Ugab River in the south, including the Etotha lyaNuumbwambwa, currently known as Etosha National Park, up to the Kunene River in the northwest and parts of the Kavango River in the northeast, the inhabitants of this vast territory belonged to the Bantu people called Aayamba. 

The name Aayamba was given to them by the San people who are known to be the original inhabitants of this territory.   

It was only after the arrival of the European traders and missionaries during the sixteenth century that the word Aayamba evolved into Aawambo. The Aawambo communities consisted of Aandonga, Aakwanyama, Aakwambi, Aambalantu, Aakwaluudhi, Aakolonkadhi, Aambadja, Aandongwena, Aankwankwa, Aandombodola, Aashinga, Aavale and Aakathima (Williams, 1991). 

The family roots of the current Aawambo communities had their origins in some of the groups mentioned above. This is demonstrated through their cultural norms, traditions and totems as well as traditional songs. Through intermarriages and social integration and evolution, these communities became the Aawambo people, as they are known today. For survival, these communities practiced mixed economy of pastoralism and agronomy as well as carrying out intra-trade barter system through exchanging goods such as ivory, iron ore, animal skins and other products (Siikonen, 1990). 

Each of the mentioned Aawambo communities had their own traditional governance structure headed by a king. The King was the head of the community in whom was vest the executive power, including the declaration of war and peace. During the incursion of European imperialists and colonialists, kings played a critical role by commanding warriors to repel the occupation of their land by foreign intruders. 
This article discusses the role played by the two kings of Ombadja, namely Shahula shaHamadila and Sheetekela shaHuudulu at the time of the colonial conquest of Ombadja by the Portuguese colonial power.

According to its tradition, Ombadja was populated from both Oukwanyama and Onkumbi. As a result, their kingdoms became divided along the directions of this migration. The kingdom of Big-Ombadja was founded by immigrants from Oukwanyama and had its capital at Omhungu, while the immigrants from Onkumbi founded the Little-Ombadja with its capital at Onaluheke. 

These kingdoms were ruled by different royal clans. Those at Omhungu were Aakwanelumbi clan, while those at Onaluheke were Aakwanayuma (Williams, 1991).

The two Ombadja kingdoms lived in peaceful co-existence until the arrival of the Portuguese colonialists during the mid-18th century. The Portuguese, after conquering the Nkumbi kingdom, their next target was the Ombadja kingdom. However, the two Ombadja kingdoms, having been well organised militarily at the time, delayed and kept the Portuguese invasion at bay for period of 40 years between 1880 and 1904. It was only in 1904, when the Protuguese soldiers crossed the Nkumbi /Kunene River into the Ombadja territory and built a fort at Xangongo, presently a town and commune in the municipality of Ombadja, in Angola’s Cunene province. During this period, the combined Ovambadja military was commanded by both King Shahula shaHamadila and King Sheetekela shaHuudulu. They fought fierce battles at Evelo laPembe, Omukoyimo, Oda yaNangeda, Onhunda yEvala and many others. In both these battles, the Portuguese soldiers suffered heavy defeat. 

Most of the Portuguese soldiers were killed and the rest were taken prisoners of war and became slaves at King Shahula’s palace. Their heads were shaved and smeared with ochre. They were also made to wear women dresses made from animal skins (Nujoma, 2001).

This military defeat and humiliation of the Portuguese could not be taken lightly by the government of Portugal in Lisbon. As a result, the Portuguese government mobilised all military resources necessary and launched a decisive battle against the Ovambadja kingdoms at Oshana shaMufilu, south of Xangongo in 1907. After their defeat, King Shahula went into exile to Uukwaluudhi. The military defeat of King Shahula was attributed to the betrayal by his nephew, Kaipalulwa kaNamholo, who defected to the Portuguese and provided them with critical military intelligence against Ovambadja.

King Sheetekela shaHuudulu, whose palace at Omhungu was not yet attached by the Portuguese, continued the fight. Due to the superiority of the military hardware of the Portuguese colonial forces, King Sheetekela was eventually defeated. As fate would have it, he was also betrayed to the Portuguese by his own first born son, Kalola kaSheetekela, working together with his nephew Muhongo waNdjolo. 

King Sheetekela fled his palace at Omhungu and went to seek refuge at Oukwanyama where he was accommodated by King Mandume yaNdemufayo. After the death of King Mandume, King Sheetekela went to settle in western Kavango and settled at a village which he named Omhungu after his former palace. The name Omhungu was later changed to what is known as Mpungu in Kavango West today. 
When peace returned to Oukwanyama and Ombadja, King Sheetekela decided to return to his former palace at Omhungu but the Portuguese had by then permanently settled at his palace and established a military post there. As a result, he settled at Etomba laSheetekela in Oukwanyama for some years, before he went to live in Okalongo until his death in 1927. He was buried at Onambome village in Okalongo. His grave can still be found there (Tshilongo, 1990).   

* Mateus Ndalipo Kaholongo possesses various degrees in diverse fields of education, public administration, history, political science and law. He writes in his private capacity.

Staff Reporter
2019-06-17 12:06:03 | 4 months ago

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