OK, I have GOT to get this site set up for good photos – or any photos! Oh well, it’s coming.
Today a bunch of us went to a King’s Coronation! Namibia has about 8-9 major tribes, and many of them have sub-tribes, so there are something like 17-20 “tribes” in Namibia often with completely dissimilar languages, often with somewhat similar dialects.
The Herero people are a major tribe, and were the target of a genocide in the early 1900’s by the occupying German forces, or at least the commander of the forces. (Google “Herero Genocide” if you want more info.) Turns out that specific event served as an initial effort, possibly a blueprint, for the Holocaust in WWII. Eugen Fisher was a key figure in this event and he formulated many of his theories from his work here – which involved “work” similar to Dr. Josef Mengele in WWII. The Herero/Nama genocide was a major influence on Nazi leaders before and during WWII. One of the active political topics in Namibia is the ongoing desire of the Herero people to have some kind of compensation for the land and people they lost. Germany has formally apologized (several years ago). In some ways it is similar to the white man displacing the American Indian, but beware of drawing parallels. There are similarities, but it wasn’t the same thing, at all.
Africa has a very rich and varied history. That is becoming more real to me but I haven’t even scratched the surface of understanding the Namibian culture, much less Africa as a whole.
That being said, the Herero people had a funeral for their old chief last month, and had a coronation ceremony, today, for the man that was unanimously chosen as the new chief/king. Hundreds of Herero people, all dressed in their traditional finest. More on that when I can post some pictures. We were watching from the sidelines, and a very formally dressed military man came up and asked us to follow him, whereupon he led us to sit directly in front of the speaker’s platform and they stretched out a red carpet for us! We sat on the ground (THAT part wasn’t fun) and the speaker interrupted his presentation to announce that we were in the Peace Corps, whereupon the audience clapped and gave us the traditional African ululation (Google it), which made us feel like we were in a National Geographic special. Pretty amazing, and what an experience. A couple of us leaned over to each other during the 45 minutes we were there (it went on all day) and simply said “Uhhh, we’re in Africa attending a king’s coronation!” Wow.
Virtually everyone we meet in Namibia is very friendly and welcoming. Many wonder what we are doing here – they’ve never seen this many white people in a group. But it’s amazing what some friendly direct questions and answers produce. We are increasingly learning to appreciate and understand the Tribes, Namibians, and Africans (and they are NOT all the same thing!) and experiencing them as people just like we are. It is amazing the commonality people have even though the specifics differ by culture. But it’s way to easy to let the “culture” explanation mask minor things that keep us from connecting to the individual we are communicating with. One of the things we are learning to appreciate about the Peace Corps is the effort they go to to help us learn the actual culture while still identifying with people as individuals. I wish that training was available to more people.
I’m at a different cafe, now, with a MUCH better internet connection, and plan to spend a few hours here, today, and several hours tomorrow. But even if not at a connection, I’m going to try and keep up blog entries into a WORD document and post them when I can. That’s my intent, at least.
It really helps when you guys (readers) “follow” (upper left hand corner of the screen) or comment. It gives me a sense of accountability for making some of what I’m experiencing available to you. Thanks!