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Home / On The Spot - The return of the sacred ritual stone from Finland

On The Spot - The return of the sacred ritual stone from Finland

2014-06-13  Staff Report 2

On The Spot - The return of the sacred ritual stone from Finland
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Nuusita Ashipala, New Era northern correspondent talks to Abisai Heita, the King Designate of the Royal House of King Kamhaku ka Huhwa of Ombalantu Kingdom on the return of the ritual stone from Finland, and its importance to the Ombalantu people.

New Era (NE): Explain to us what is the ritual stone all about?

Abisai Heita (AH): The ritual stone is part of the traditional symbols (omiya dhoshilongo) in Oshiwambo and the sacred fire (omudilo woshilongo). It is part of an old Bantu belief that prosperity of a tribe or clan is linked to these symbols. It is not only the Ombalantu people, but all Oshiwambo kingdoms have their fire.

NE: What makes the stone special and sacred?

AH: If you have this particular ritual stone you can instil and restore the same tradition or moral values that were instilled by the ancestors.

More so, you have the same authority of the fallen ancestors to make decisions. If the ritual stone is given to someone or passed on to someone who is not from the royal family, then decisions taken by the ancestors become invalid and in the long run breaks the cultural connection between traditional authorities that are bound by the ritual stone. In our tradition every house has its stone. Even when young people establish homes there are certain things that must be in the house. At every fireplace in the house, including that of the owner, there is also a stone. It is a ritual for every family.

NE: How many stones did the Ombalantu royal family have?

AH: The Ombalantu royal family had three stones including the one that was taken to Finland. The other two are kept with the senior members of the royal family. It is not for everyone to know who has it or where it is kept. The ritual stone is kept together with other symbols that are kept by a senior member of the family.

NE: Apart from the ritual stone and the sacred fire, what other symbols does the royal family keep?

AH: There is a bow and arrows for the King, a flute and ornaments. There is also a weapon that was captured by the Ombalantu King during the Portuguese war in Ombadja. The Ombalantu King went to support the Ombadja (today known as Okalongo) King who was under attack from the Portuguese at Oshana shaMufilu. After independence the weapon was handed to the police because it was not registered. However, in due time we want that weapon to be part of the Ombalantu museum like all other tribes are safeguarding their ancestral inheritance.

NE: Is there a museum in Outapi currently?

AH: No, we have requested for funds to build a museum, but our request for funds has not yet been responded to.

NE: Why was the ritual stone taken to Finland and how do you know it is the right stone?

AH: The ritual stone was taken to Finland by the Finish missionaries to get rid of the cultural practices and in return teach the people to believe in God rather than their cultural rituals. Their mission was to make people Christians. We know it is the right one; it is just that we cannot really go into the details of it and show it off to the world because it is sacred information to the royal family.

NE: Where was the ritual stone kept before taken to Finland? And who took care of the stone? 

AH: The ritual stone follows the successor of the last king within the royal family. When King Kamhaku died his brother Avula Epohe took over. The stone and the sacred fire was guarded by Epohe’s sisters because the matrilineal line is considered to be the royal family. One cannot really say where it was because it is only the women who knew where it was kept. The last person to have kept the ritual stone according to the family tree was Kahenya Alweendo who was also from the royal family.

NE: How did the ritual stone come about at first?

AH: According to our forefathers the ritual stone and sacred fire came from Central Africa. This particular ritual stone and its sacred fire were given to Nanghweyo and her daughter Naitembu who is the mother of King Kamhaku ka Huhwa who was the then King of Ombalantu. The stones were given to the two women from the royal family to go and settle in Ombalantu, but most importantly, the ritual stone and the sacred fire symbolises the authority to rule. The Aakwangheyo clan, which is derived from Nanghweyo, were the first people to be given the ritual stone and sacred fire are from the original Bantu kingdom in Central Africa. This sacred fire was first lit at Onaluheke in Ombadja, in the palace of the Ombadja king at the time. Traditionally, the royal family is supposed to go to where their sacred fire was first lit, every year in February to collect their fire sacred fire.

NE: Why should the authority to rule come from Central Africa and not from within the country?

AH: All the other kingdoms of the Oshiwambo people have their ritual stones derived from the original Bantu kingdom in Central Africa which started crumpling in with the advent of colonialism.

NE: How did the royal family get to Ombalantu if their fire was lit in Ombadja?

AH: Very interesting, their journey was long.  They were settlers en route to Ombalantu and they lit their fire wherever they settled. From onaluheke, the royal family moved to Oshondo near where the palace of King Kamhaku ka Huhwa was established when he became king. But because of the scarcity of water the family relocated to Ohamwaalwa where King Kamhaku was brutally attacked. King Kamhaku played a significant role in the community, digging several wells for people in different villages, wells which are still used today in Ombalantu.

NE: Why was King Kamhaku killed if he was such a generous man?

AH: Kamhaku was not killed by people he ruled, people from his clan killed him. If the Aambalantu subjects killed him, then the other kings from other traditional authorities would have gotten rid of those who had killed him.  Traditionally, the poor subjects cannot kill the king but the royal clan can.

NE: Are the allegations that Kamhaku was cruel true?

AH: How severe was his cruelty? And even then, one person’s cruelty cannot be held against the whole royal family.  It was not just Kamhaku who was cruel. All the kings who had the right over life and death were cruel. But the current royal family rules according to the constitution.

NE:  According to what you have heard, why was he considered cruel?

AH: Apparently he was cruel because he made people plough with their hands.  Really! Even if the soil is wet and I want to plough, I cannot plough with my hands.  Even the allegations that are levelled against him that he took away the hoes are not true.  There were no hoes then. People used a digging stick called “oshikoo” to plough. These are allegations created so that the people can dislike late Kamhaku and the royal family. However, if we are to believe that Kamhaku was cruel and that his grandchildren that are alive now should not inherit his kingdom because he was cruel, where does it leave the concept of reconciliation? We reconciled with those who colonised us, why is it so hard to accept the royal family? Does discrimination have a place in the constitution of Namibia? What is happening now regarding the royal family is not in line with the reconciliation policy and now they are taking away what belongs to the family giving it to people who are not part of the royal family.

NE: Why did it take 84 years for the ritual stone to be returned from Finland?

AH: The stone was taken in 1932 when Ombalantu was ruled by the Aatundu clan who were put in authority by the colonial master in 1918. During the colonial era the real King of Ombalantu, Ishitile Shiweva, was not revealed to the colonial masters because the previous King Avula Alweendo was taken by the Germans and never returned. The ritual stone was at that point taken over by the Aatundu clan because the Aakwanghweyo were silenced. Attempts to get it back from the Aatundu clan left them severely beaten and made to pay a heavy fine. The Aatundu clan also told the colonial masters false stories about the Aakwangheyo and their sacred inheritance and this prompted the colonial masters to investigate whether the allegations were true. This was painful to the royal family because they started searching for the ritual stone even in the mahangu field. The even resorted to exhuming King Kamhaku to see if it was hidden in his grave.

It took ages to get it back because Namibia was not independent and the royal family had no negotiation rights with Finland and would otherwise cause a diplomatic situation that could land them in trouble, hence the stone ended up in asylum. After independence, the royal family then started the process to request for the stone in 1998, way before the current Chief Traditional Authority Oswin Mukulu started his negotiations in 2012.  Our negotiations to get back the ritual stone and to restore our ancestral culture have been ignored because the Chief of Traditional Authority did not respond to our letters of request.

NE: Who negotiated for the return of the ritual stone? 

AH: The negotiations for the restoration of the Kingdom of Kamhaku ka Huhwa in Ombalantu started with the Royal family who first wrote letters to the Finland museum, the Embassy of Finland in Namibia and the president of Finland.  The family made this decision because all attempts to get Oswin Mukulu, who is now the Chief of Traditional Authority, to negotiate proved futile.

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2014-06-13  Staff Report 2

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