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Chronicles of San come to live in catalogue showing histories of the oldest tribe in Namibia

Chronicles of San come to live in catalogue showing histories of the oldest tribe in Namibia

Staff Reporter

“Before the occupation of South West Africa in 1915… the bushmen had a very meagre existence, in fact the ordinary white man looked upon him as vermin, to the dominant Native tribes he was nothing but a scavenger and slave, and extermination from all sides was quoted as being the only solution to what was considered a menace to human existence in South West Africa.”

The above is just a glimpse of the many accounts that can be found in the catalogue from the Museums Association of Namibia and European Union, which was donated to libraries in Namibia.

The San cultural heritage catalogues are the largest collection in the world of historical artefacts from Namibia’s San communities and includes a few stories, which is referred to as “`Hidden Histories’ which is taken from the earliest known autobiographies of San people.

“The motivation for this Handbook (and the mobile exhibition which accompanies it) was our concern that members of Namibia’s San communities have faced prejudice and discrimination for many years. Many young people from our communities are `losing’ their mother tongue and once our languages are lost our cultural heritage will also soon be lost. In Namibia people have labelled us in many ways. For example, in English we were called `Bushmen’, whilst in Oshiwambo we were called `Aakwankala’, Ovakuruha in OtjiHerero and in Rukwangali `Vaduni’. Calling us such names has contributed to low self-esteem amongst our young people,” the San Council of Namibia wrote in the introduction of the catalogue.

Whilst history is important, the catalogue, however, focuses on a collection of objects that reflect the cultural heritage of our communities. The collection was assembled by Louis Fourie and is the largest collection of objects from Namibia’s San communities. Fourie arrived in ‘German South West Africa’ (Namibia) in 1916 as part of the South African army that occupied the territory after the defeat of the German Schutztruppe during World War One.

Ndapewoshali Ndahafa Ashipala, the Director of the Museums Association of Namibia, added that their association donated 200 copies of the //HA//XAE (!XUNG), MA/AOS (HAI//OM), GǁA ǁKAE (JU’/HOANSI), TȆȆ /XAI (KHWE), DEA /XAE (NARO), Stand Together Catalogue/Mobile Exhibition Guide to the Directorate of Namibia Libraries and Archives Service (NLAS) in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture.
The exhibition and catalogue are part of a project titled “Museum Development as a Tool for Strengthening Cultural Rights in Namibia” funded by the Delegation of the European Union to Namibia.

The mobile exhibition and catalogue produced by MAN, in collaboration with the Namibian San Council (NSC), were launched by the Acting Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Martin Andjaba, at Etosha Secondary School on 20 February 2020. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic that broke out soon after, the exhibition and catalogue were initially unable to travel and be distributed, respectively.

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