By Faith Haushona-Kavamba
FINANCIAL services giant, Sanlam Namibia, recently wrapped up its roadshow titled My Culture, My Life, which aimed to educate the youth of the Kavango regions (East and West) on the importance of culture.
The roadshow which lasted a week (June 6-10), saw award-winning musicians Freeda, Uno Boy and upcoming group TKB not only visit schools where they gave small lectures on various cultural norms and practices, but they also paid courtesy calls on the various leaders of those regions.
Among them was the Governor for the Kavango East Region, Samuel Mbambo, who enlightened the group on culture. Taking on his familiar roles of being a pastor, teacher and politician, Mbambo tapped into his stream of knowledge and educated the young stars on the importance of culture. He subsequently had a sit-down with Confidente on the matter.
Q: In your opinion, what is culture and its importance?
A: First of all I would like to stress how happy I am to see institutions taking culture seriously. This means that it will not die or be too diluted by outside influences; this is also an opportunity to educate people who do know about culture as well.
Culture is how human beings interact with other entities; how they live with them for their own survival, taking into consideration the dos and don’ts on co-existing peacefully. Our forefathers went through different things to ensure their survival and that is what we now consider our cultural and traditional norms. They experimented with various things and passed them on via traditional songs and dances that carry messages to warn generations down the line about something or advise them on it. Cultural practices make you a better human being, a human being is who they are because of other human beings.
What society accepts as the norm is what makes up culture, but it is not cast in stone, it is a dynamic thing that changes over time. Practices such as intermarrying between tribes allowed for culture to change over time. Two cultural groups who merge retain the positive aspects of each of their cultures and discard negatives.
African cultures do not impose beliefs on others so they are not prone to conflicts. If one does not impose their own culture and look down on those of others, they can achieve harmony. If there are elements of disunity in culture they should be discarded, this is because culture aids with identity and unity.
The identity of Namibians is unique, not readily identifiable like those of Nigerians or Zambians. However the strength of Namibian culture is tolerance. During the liberation struggle Namibians exercised tolerance and unity, unlike other countries that resorted to xenophobia. It is important that we not imitate the negative aspects of other people cultures. Namibians can be unique and should therefore forge their own culture; it binds us together and forges oneness/ nationhood.
What is the biggest disruption of culture?
Historically, we had the contract system. Those who did not go through it will not understand it. Colonialists introduced a tax system and people needed money to pay these taxes so they had to go and look for jobs in the city which Women were left to care for the children, meaning the male head of a family was lacking. The intimacy of the father/child relationship was missing, that in part disrupted our culture. Our cultural disruption began with the colonialists because our people had to leave and could not care/raise their children, hence they could not pass on some cultural beliefs. When contract labourers left for foreign lands, they were exposed to the cultures of those lands and returned with those influences. Their demeanour changed and so did their way of thinking and how they look at the world.
Language and the way one conveys it is a form of culture. The sensitivity of the language and how to address people is part of that culture too. The way these returnees used the language was part of that change. The drum of culture and tradition is being beaten in the major institutions in the West. Changes made there affect everyone, even the smallest isolated towns in villages in the Kavango. Metropolitan capital cities influence and can thus disrupt culture.
Cultural disruptions also come in when those who do not know about cultural norms interact with the elderly generation who still practise those cultural norms. Elders are afraid of their own children because colonialists made sure the impact of the fear they instilled in them lasted. It is said that God had one day to put his people in Israel, but it took 40 years to take them out. That is because the psychological yard stick of the self was affected by the colonialist and so the content of one’s education determines how they understand the world.
If we do not have a past, we will not have a future; hence we need to teach each other these cultural and traditional norms. ‘Talk less, listen more and watch more’ is a rule we all need to apply if we are to retain our culture.
What is your office doing to aid in the preservation of culture?
My office takes pride in trying to educate the youth on culture. We try to emphasise its importance. However, there is no specific institution within my office to do this. My only wish is to teach people that all people are equal. If there is a chance to teach young people, personally or professionally, I take it.
Do you have any recommendations for the preservation of culture?
Institutions should work towards the promotion of unity regardless of tribes or race. I also encourage artists to also promote inclusivity. Artists are blessed in that they can add value to the smallest things, but it also means they have a huge responsibility. Our languages are very important because they are part of culture, but we can also look at creating one language that unites us all, similar to what Julius Neyerere tried to do with Swahili, which is now one of the most spoken languages.
Most importantly, I want Namibian culture to look at a person first as a human being, irrespective of their race or culture.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015