All people face hardship – but for many, the thought of losing their sight is a horrifying prospect.
Melvin Masule was 31 years old when he suddenly lost his eyesight.
Having faced immense difficulties for 16 years as a result of vision loss, his accomplishments are extraordinary for a man of his condition, and he continues to look after himself and his community.
Masule was a temporary employee at the Namibia Planning Commission at the time he lost his vision.
He said his plans of becoming a permanent employee at the institution abruptly came to a halt, and he slipped into depression.
Although he has never been diagnosed with eye problems, one morning, Masule woke up to an unpleasant surprise he had lived in dread of.
“It was in 2005 I went to bed fully-sighted – and as usual, I woke up in the morning to get ready for work; the room was completely dark – and from that day, I have never seen again,” Masule recalled.
Overnight, Masule had lost a very significant amount of his sight and could no longer do most of the things he had previously managed to do.
“I thought I was losing my mind, but I was actually losing my sight. I couldn’t even leave the house; I just felt so isolated,” he said. He described the experience as “a previous existence that seems as distant as another life”.
Opening the door of his room used to be something he could do half asleep; after he lost his vision, it became a multi-step process.
The drastic change in his vision further increased his anxiety levels.
“I was working on a few projects – and at that time, I was also working very hard to get permanently employed by NPC – just for my sight to disappear like that. It was very challenging because I could not go to work anymore, and I could not provide for my family,” he said.
The father of eight said he also felt like his opportunities had become extremely limited, and that everything he wanted to do was made impossible because he could no longer see.
Despite the challenges he endured while trying to return to normalcy and adapt to his condition, Masule eventually found his true calling.
He established a living museum in his village, called Mali Traditional Village and Open-air Living Museum at Ngoma in the Zambezi region.
“Many foreign tourists come to our village because it is just across the world-renowned Chobe Nature Reserve. People are always interested to know the livelihood of our people, and that is how the idea behind my museum came about,” he said. The museum gives visitors an interesting insight into the life of the Masubia. The living museum is an authentic open-air museum, where guests can learn about the traditional culture and the original way of living of the Masubia people and cultural exchanges.
“Not only did I want to preserve my culture through the museum, but I also wanted to be a productive member of the society again.
Established in 2019, the museum showcases the old and almost-forgotten culture of the Masubia people through crafts, storytelling and a gallery.
Having only been in existence for three years, Mali Traditional Village and Open-air Living Museum has attracted over 200 tourists from overseas.
“I would like to tell people, especially the visually impaired, that the world is not too complex for a blind person to deal with. Becoming blind was not the end of my life; instead, it was a new beginning,” said Masule.
He is also part of his community’s development programme and contributes highly to the growth of Ngoma village and surrounding areas.