When the crowds were gathered in the streets of Namibia, the cheers were of a free Namibia. A Namibia free of apartheid, racism and a Namibia free from colonization, the year was 1990. Yet, here we are, 30 years later still having to shout and scream to have black voices heard. When one comes across a landmark in Henties Bay, that was initiated by two white men by the name Frank Atkinson and Willie Cilliers in 1978. You do not have to wonder any further as to what system they were living in, a system that favoured the white man, a system that revered in the segregation of white people from black people, because the white race was seen as superior. However, the conversation goes further, a landmark was erected by the two white men, to stand as a sign that people should keep the town clean.
One would think that in order to drive the message of keeping a town clean home, you would have a “do not litter sign”, or a “littering prohibited sign”. Instead, these two white men who name themselves the first inhabitants of Henties Bay, which we all know is factually incorrect, but that is a discussion for another day, thought it to be a good idea to put up a lynching pole, also referred to the Gallows, to be a symbol/landmark to keep the town clean.
In accordance to documentation attained from the Henties Bay tourism website to explain the gallows and why it was erected, the below is written:
“Eventually in 1978 two of the first permanent residents of Henties Bay, Frank Atkinson and Willie Cilliers, who respectively settled here in 1969 and 1971, fixed an old tree stump with a rope and noose as a “friendly but firm” warning to keep the town and beach clean – or else….! This gesture is typical of Afrikaner humour and seen as such without any negative connotation reflecting on obscure happenings such as real hangings or slavery (which is, by the way, not part of Namibia’s history).”
The disclaimer that lynching is not a part of Namibia’s history is both incorrect and intended to gloss over the atrocities and prejudice faced by the Namibian people at the hands of colonization. Though it is understood that lynching may not have taken place at the landmark, one cannot deny the vexatious innuendo it was intended to send. Nor can one deny the history of the execution and lynching of the innocent lives of Namibian citizens during the Nama Herero Genocide. To look at the Gallows “lynching pole” in a public space, surely had me miss the Afrikaner humour it was intended to be. I did not chuckle, not did I find anything remotely funny about a lynching pole. Perhaps, I do not possess the humour to be able to see a lynching pole and see anything other than the black history of slaves in America and across the world, or my fellow countrymen who died at the hands of German brutality during a genocide. Perhaps, I failed to see the humour or perhaps I saw the innuendo for what it was. Perhaps, I saw instead, a lynching pole, put up in a public space, to warn black people to not litter or else suffer the same consequences of their ancestors. Perhaps I look too deeply into the matter, or perhaps I contemplated it just as it was intended. We may never know, because the two white men, who lived in the apartheid era, who put up the Gallows “lynching pole”, are not around to tell the tale.
In any case, with my freedom of speech and freedom of expression, I can raise my voice and speak on the fact that I do not see the Afrikaner humour of a gallows in public space, nor am I going to walk by this landmark and turn a blind eye, which is why we have launched a petition for its removal from Henties Bay. This petition for the removal of The Gallows “landmark” from the public location in Henties Bay and that the “landmark” be put in a Namibian Museum with an accurate description. That is all. Mavis Braga Elias is a writer. Find her on www.mavisbraga.com
2020-06-03 09:20:08 | 1 months ago