THE marula trees did not bear much fruits this year, apparently due to poor rain the previous season, but the much anticipated Omagongo (marula) season has kicked in as usual in the four Northern regions of the former Owamboland.
Traditional courts at village level are already in recession. Men of all ages are temporarily not allowed to carry any traditional or modern weapons. And members of the respective traditional communities are warned against domestic quarrels during this time of enjoyment of the fermented marula juice, known as omagongo or omaongo in local vernaculars.
Women and girls collect the ripe marula fruits and then sit down to squeeze out the juice using the point of a cow horn.
The liquid is then placed in a container for the fermentation process that lasts two to three days.
The fermented juice is traditionally consumed by adults only and only in a strictly limited quantity to avoid intoxication.
However, the marula juice has now become an income generating product, with local entrepreneurs buying it for as little as N$5 per litre in the rural villages and then re-selling it for as much as N$20 per litre in towns.
The season closes off with the annual Omagongo Cultural Festival which is hosted on a rotational basis by the eight ethnic groups of Aawambo – Ondonga, Oukwanyama, Ombadja, Ombalantu, Uukolonkadhi, Uukwaluudhi, Ongandjera and Uukwambi.
The Ombalantu Traditional Authority is the host of this year’s event which will take place from 8 to 9 May at Chief Oswin Mukulu’s palace near Outapi.
According to the traditional community spokesperson Angula Kanelombe, the event will be preceded by two fundraising dinners – one in Windhoek on 4 April and the other at Outapi on the 20th of April.
Commenting on the fact that marula trees did not bear much fruit this year and the organizers might not have enough omagongo to cater for all the feast-goers, Kanelombe said: “The festival is not necessarily about drinking.
It is about celebrating our culture and sharing what we have harvested, regardless of quantity.”
The Omagongo festival was initially only an Aawambo event, but has now become a national event, even recognized internationally as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
Feast-goers are entertained by traditional dancers and the event serves as platform to exchange ideas and to transmit customary norms and traditions to the younger generation.