By Faith Haushona-Kavamba
MOST people understand that they are the custodians of their culture and tradition, however not many take an active role in preserving it.
Sebron Sikerete is one of the few individuals who decided to take an active role to preserve the culture of not only his tribe the Mbunza people, but all the Kavango people as a whole. “In 2009 I worked at a rest camp but I was eager to start a project that would benefit the youth of my community as we are disadvantaged. We first started off with a campsite but it didn’t work out,” Sikerete explained.
After his attempt to start a rest camp failed, Sikerete said he started looking for other ideas he could explore, that is when he met members of the Living Culture Foundation Namibia (LFCN) who urged him a exploring the concept of a living museum. Living Museums allow for visitors to experience historically factual traditions and cultures of different tribes authentically by having them in their own natural setting. Visitors can watch and participate as inhabitants of the cultural museums carry out their day-to-day chores the same way their ancestors would have done it before the introduction of such amenities as portable water and electricity. “After I fully understood what went into running a cultural museum, I recruited other youth from the community (14 km outside Rundu in Kavango West) who would help me run the museum. But it entailed a lot as we had to build a tradition homestead and forge traditional tools. It also required us to spend most of our days at the museum in case tourists came,” he said.
Unfortunately, not all of his fellows shared his motivation to preserve their culture so they quit. He hired more individuals from the community, this time including both young and old. The living museum was completed in 2012 and has been fully operational. Visitors are greeted with song and dance, after which the cultural group gives them a walk-through of their lives, illustrating everything from fishing, arts and crafts, traditional attire to making tools.
“Although our museum is mainly for the Mbunza tribe, I believe it is representative of all the Kavango people because we are all from one place. Legend has it that all Kavango people migrated from Mashi in Zambia. It is said that people decided to start migrating south because the population was growing and so were the conflicts among people.
“The Kwangali people and the Mbunza were descendants of two siblings who were part of the royal family. They moved to Makuzu Gamutenda and it was there that the two camps decided to split into two groups, forming the Kwangali and the Mbunza tribe. But that is also the same reason one finds there is not much distinction between the languages of their traditional customs and norms because they lived close to each other. In fact this is the case with all the Kavango people, the differences are mainly in the language,” he explained.
The word Nza is the name of a type of fish, which is said to be peaceful and travels in large schools. That is where the name of the tribe is derived from, with Mbunza meaning ‘plenty of Nza’.
There has long been an argument on whether or not the Nyemba and the Chokwe people are also part of the Kavango people, according to Sikerete; the answer is both yes and no.
“The answer yes because we are all one people, we are all from place which is Mashi, but no because they stayed in Kwitu in Angola, while the Kavango people crossed the river into now Namibia. However we have always remained very close,” he said.
Sikerete said that the first step in preserving local culture was in realising that all Namibians are one people. He pointed that that the migration footprint of most tribes in Namibia (including those who are not Kavango) pointed to one place, Mashi.
His wish is to see other youth of various other tribes take initiative in preserving their culture through initiatives like the living museum he runs. He believes that acknowledging that will motivate people as a collective to help each other preserve culture. “The Kavango people do not isolate themselves and co-exist with other tribes. This is because we are all one people and have to build the country together if we intend on achieving Vision 2030. Preserving our cultures and traditions will aid with that because they teach us how to be peaceful and hardworking. With them we will be able to take the country far,” he said.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015