WINDHOEK, Mar. 16 – Fashion designers, architects, musicians, artists and cooks are just some of the Namibians who draw inspiration from our rich and diverse cultural heritage.
Cultural diversity is what provides Namibia with its unique flavour and appearance. However, many of the objects that reflect pre-colonial belief systems and demonstrate the techniques and materials used to make things can no longer be found in our communities.
Mass production is replacing individual craftwork.
Plastic and other synthetic materials are replacing the organic materials used in the past.
A two-year project “Museum Development as a Tool for Strengthening Cultural Rights in Namibia” funded by the European Union with N$ 3,5 million (€237,025) and implemented by the Museums Association of Namibia in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture and other relevant stakeholders, will contribute to the establishment of two permanent museums in Namibia, the Museum of Namibian Music and the Zambezi Museum, and to the development of two mobile exhibitions and catalogues on San and Ndonga history and cultures.
In this context, the Museums Association of Namibia recently organized a workshop
in Ondangwa that aimed to show one way in which cultural knowledge can be
preserved or revived. Rev. Martti Rautanenen, better known locally as `Nakambale’
(as he always wore a distinctive hat) became the leader of the Finnish missionaries
who arrived in northern Namibia in the late nineteenth century.
He lived at Olukonda and his home is now known as the `Nakambale Museum’. Whilst in Namibia he assembled a collection of 127 objects that reflected the lifestyle and beliefs of the local community. Hon. Elia Irimari, the Regional Councilor for Ondangwa, argued that cultural heritage should play an important role in development and hope MAN return back to the region to assist with upcoming Heritage development in Oshana region.
The collection is currently held by the National Museum of Finland, but the museum
has provided the Museums Association of Namibia with photographs of all the objects. Participants at the workshop were able to view the photographs and interpret the meaning of the objects. The workshop included a range of local historians, including the well-known authors Mr Petrus Amakali, and the Oshiwambo NBC radio presenter Mr Angula Ndjembo.
MAN will also obtain a translation (from Finnish) of a catalogue that provided information about each object, based on Rautanen’s notes and diary. The translation will provide further insight into the history (one might say the `biography’) of each object.
The European Commission is the EU’s executive body.
“The European Union is made up of 28 Member states who have decided to gradually link together their know-how, resources and destinies. Together, during a period of enlargement of 60 years, they have built a zone of stability, democracy and sustainable development whilst maintaining cultural diversity, tolerance and
individual freedoms. The European Union is committed to sharing its
achievements and its values with countries and peoples beyond its
In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture in the Republic of Namibia This projected is funded by the European Union Delegation of the European Union to Namibia
The Museums Association of Namibia aims to produce a new catalogue based on photographs of the collection. However, the original information will be edited and supplemented by insights provided by local community members. The catalogue will also contain new photographs of important heritage sites. The location of Olukonda and the content of the collection means that the exhibition will focus on the historical kingdom of Ondonga.
MAN also intends to produce a small, travelling exhibition that will be available to be shown in other regions of the country. Dr Martha Akawa, the Vice-Chairperson of the Museums Association of Namibia, said: “We believe that it is important that young people are aware of their cultural roots. We believe that, whilst this collection relates to Ondonga, the project can be seen as a model. The process can help repair the psychological damage that has been done to young people who have `lost’ their culture. We hope that, in the future, such partnerships might be extended. MAN would like to see the repatriation of some objects to support the establishment of new community-based museums in the regions that would be sources of inspiration.”
It is hoped that the project will raise awareness about the importance of some of the historical artifacts that are found in some homes and encourage families to donate them to their local museum for preservation.