By Staff Reporter
WINDHOEK, May 21 — As technology advances at an unprecedented pace, traditional cultures rooted in centuries-old traditions find themselves grappling with the question of how to adapt to this tidal wave of change. One such culture is the Himba people of Namibia, who face the challenge of embracing the benefits of technology without compromising the essence of what makes their culture unique.
Namibia, like many other countries, has a rich tapestry of traditions and cultural values that have evolved over time. However, education is often resisted by older members of the Himba community, who place a high value on pastoral and nomadic traditions centred around livestock ownership. In this worldview, wealth is measured by the number of cattle one possesses.
Elizabeth Ndundu, a 27-year-old educated Himba woman, laments the high rate of illiteracy among her people, attributing it to their way of life. She acknowledges her pride in the Himba tradition and cultural beliefs but feels saddened by the reluctance to prioritize education. Those who choose to pursue education, like Ndundu, are often stigmatized and seen as betraying their culture.
The Himba way of life creates a sense of isolation, as they sometimes feel uncomfortable among other groups. Ndundu believes it is essential for the Himba people to strike a balance between preserving their culture and embracing the changes of the modern world. She points out that tourists visit their communities because they represent unique cultural norms and traditions, which should serve as a source of pride and motivation for the younger generation to improve.
Vitukutuku Mueja, a Himba parent, views education as unimportant compared to tending to livestock. He argues that his children only need to attend school to learn basic literacy skills, questioning why he should pay someone else to look after his cattle when his children can do the job. Mueja insists that outsiders should respect the Himba people’s traditions and way of life, as they do not interfere with those of others.
Teachers in the Himba area, such as Vitiku Mbumburu, express concern about the lack of interest in education among the community, leading to high rates of absenteeism. Many Himba children spend weeks or months looking after livestock, particularly during the dry summer months when they search for grazing pastures in other areas. Despite efforts by teachers, government, and other organizations to promote school attendance, progress remains limited.
Dr. Kletius Likuwa, a Namibian historian and senior researcher, believes that the Himba and other cultures have no choice but to embrace global changes. He suggests that traditions and cultures will inevitably be influenced and modified to fit the era in which people live. Likuwa emphasizes the need for a new curriculum that respects both past and present cultures, striking a balance between preserving valuable traditions and fostering progressive practices.
Tjikunda Katjina Kulunga, a founding member of the Namibia Indigenous People’s Advocacy Platform, believes that the Himba community must find a balance between preserving their traditions and evolving with the rest of the world. He acknowledges the positive impact of modern society on the Himba people, such as improved access to hospitals, modern services, and education. Kulunga sees a gradual shift in the community’s attitude towards education, partly driven by the loss of livestock due to persistent droughts.
He predicts that the Himba culture, like many other Namibian cultures, will undergo significant transformation, with authentic traditional attire and cultural norms diminishing over time. Instead, a modernized version of Himba life will emerge, incorporating elements that align with contemporary lifestyles. Kulunga and Ndundu both believe that change is inevitable, and they highlight positive signs of the Himba youth embracing new norms, such as covering their bodies when wearing traditional attire, signalling a willingness to adapt to global standards.
While the Himba people face challenges in navigating the impact of technology on their culture, there is room for optimism. As interactions and exchanges with other groups become more frequent, the Himba youth are gradually shedding rigid approaches and embracing aspects of modern life. This cultural evolution, accompanied by improved access to education and changing societal dynamics, offers hope for a future where the Himba people can preserve their unique heritage while embracing the opportunities and advancements of the modern world.