Traditional practices empower people and dismantle foreign influences ‑ Nujoma
Outapi – Despite massive opposition from some sections of the public, including church leaders, upon its inception in 2012, the Olufuko Festival has proved popular, as large numbers of visitors flocked to the festival in Outapi town this year.
Olufuko is a traditional wedding that was commonly practised among the Oshiwambo-speaking tribes of Uukwaludhi, Ombalantu, Ombandja, Uukwambi, and Ongandjera for generations before the advent of European missionaries in Namibia.
With the arrival of the European missionaries between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Olufuko and other cultural practices were abandoned, as they were deemed not to conform to the Bible and its teachings.
In the olden days, young girls would take part in this century-old seven-day initiation ceremony whereby they were prepared for womanhood and commissioned as brides.
This rite of passage prepared girls for roles in the society as respected adults who are able to do household chores, including producing food and preparing meals for their families as well as handcraft such as pottery making.
However, Olufuko has been revived, in the form of a festival. The first festival was held last year amid opposition from Christian churches, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN).
They claimed that the practice discriminates and violates the rights of girls who partake in the ceremony. They said such practice (Olufuko) was immoral and sin to allow girls to fall pregnant before marriage.
Despite resistance from churches, the Olufuko Festival was launched on August 23, 2012, with Namibia’s Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma, as its patron.
The organisers ‑ the Outapi Town Council with the backing of Omusati Regional Council ‑ claims the idea behind the festival was to inform, educate and entertain with the view to appreciate and enhance traditional and cultural identity.
It is further aimed at creating tourism opportunities at the northern town and creates awareness within the region through cultural, arts and agricultural activities.
At this year’s festival ‑ held from August 24 to 31 at Outapi ‑ Dr Nujoma once again threw his weight behind the festival.
Speaking at the official opening on August 27, Dr Nujoma explained the purpose of Olufuko. He said it is aimed to give people pride in celebrating their traditions and age-old customs as well as to empower people and dismantle foreign influences from everyday life.
The Founding President called on elders and parents to prepare children in all aspects of traditional life in order for them to build a strong nation deeply rooted on traditional heritage.
Dr Nujoma also called on traditional leaders to retain and preserve traditional ceremonies such as the Olufuko festival, and other traditional ceremonies, symbols and rituals associated with their cultures that were destroyed during the colonial era.
The advent of colonialism on the African continent, the Founding Father said has led to a predatory system that cruelly fed on the lives of the African people and the riches of their land and Namibia was no exception.
“The colonial powers destroyed our indigenous symbols of power considered as pagan while our people were made to get rid of their own cultural artefacts and in the process, they lost their way of life,” he said.
He added that it was unfortunate that some of those cultural artefacts and symbols of power, which were considered fetish by Europeans missionaries, who were to burn them, instead found their way into museums and private collections, especially in Europe.
Sofia Shaningwa, the Omusati Governor and one of the leading proponents of Olufuko, noted that the festival is growing bigger and better.
More than 20 girls took part in the initiation ceremony this year compared to last year’s 17.
“This is not the exact number of our girls that wanted to go through Olufuko, some were left crying because they couldn’t make it to reach here on time due to transport and other challenges,” Shaningwa said.
The Governor stressed that Olufuko is not something new in the Omusati region, “or a sin that one needs to shy from but it is part of the culture that needs to be inherited by generations to come”.
Shaningwa echoed Nujoma’s sentiment that it is important that parents educate their children about the importance of keeping the culture and to use it as a guidance of what is wrong and what’s right.
Shaningwa has reiterated the primary objectives of Olufuko Festival, among others, to stimulate local and regional economies through the injection of disposal income.
This year’s preparations for the festival went very smoothly, compared to last year when there were much criticism from some churches and human rights organisations, the Governor said.
She charged that: “Olufuko is here to stay, there is no turning back or crush, we are moving forward with our culture. The idea will never die. Our culture is in the language we speak; in the way we dress and the food.”