Thursday, August 26, 2010

Of Heroes and Hereros

Magnet # 327:  Sights of Namibia

Material:  Rubber

Purchased By:  Me

The people of Namibia are celebrating their Heroes' Day today, which commemorates the beginning of the Namibian War of Independence in 1966.  It would continue for another 22 years as mostly guerrilla forces tried to free themselves of the apartheid South African government that was ruling their territory.  Prior to then, they had been a colony of Germany and when they rose up against that nation, they had responded with genocide.  By World War I, South Africa was able to occupy the territory and gain control of it, but the people there were no more pleased with their new rulers than they had been with the previous ones, eventually rising up once again.  The United Nations had actually taken their side in 1946, asking South Africa to surrender Namibia to a trusteeship it would establish, so the rebels had the sympathy of other nations around the world.  And in 1988, South Africa finally agreed to relinquish the area.  By the 21st of March in 1990, Namibia had been established as an independent nation.

Heroes' Day isn't actually the only celebration going on in Namibia on August 26th.  There's also Herero Day, in which the Herero people of the nation gather to celebrate their deceased chieftains, most notably Samuel Maharero, a chieftain in the area of Okahandja.  He lived during the times of German occupation.  Although he was able to maintain peace with them initially, soon attacks by German farmers, seizure of the lands, and economic difficulties compelled him to plan a secret revolt with his fellow chiefs.  In early 1904, they began their attack and met with initial success.  But soon, the Germans began sending thousands of troops to the area and offered a bounty on Maharero's head.  By August of 1904, the Herero forces were soundly defeated.  Even then, Maharero was still able to flee, leading some of his followers to land controlled by the British.  They remained there in relative safety until his death in March of 1923.  On August 26 of that year, his body was brought back to his homeland of Okahandja and given a hero's burial.  And even now, this day remains important to Herero people.  But as it is also a national holiday for all of Namibia, its festivities are often postponed so that government leaders of Herero ancestry are able to attend events from both holidays.  I suppose that's a nice way of streching out the festivities. 

I was tempted into getting this magnet, along with several others by the same company, when I was traveling through the Mid-Atlantic last year. I thought they were really attractive, but limited myself to a small amount, mainly from countries I don't imagine anyone I know - or I - will make it to. So yes, I think it unlikely that I'll ever be in Namibia but at least I was able to get a feel for it from one of my favorite globe-trotting Travel Channel hosts, Anthony Bourdain. He visited the country back in 2006 and his time there was pretty varied. On the positive side, he was able to try some of the best oysters he had ever eaten anywhere in the world, he snowboarded on sand and managed to stay up, and he had a very tasty meal of grilled meats purchased from a market.  However, he also was unfortunate enough to have one of the worst meals of his life when he visited the Kalahari Bushmen, a somewhat primitive people.  First, he was served an ostrich egg omelet, which doesn't sound too bad until it was prepared in the sand, and covered with wood that baked the ash and dirt right into the egg.  Yep, I can't imagine that tasted very good.  But I'm sure it was better than his next offering - an unwashed warthog rectum, cooked right in the dirt.  Apparently, it's one of the choicest parts of the animal.  Poor guy - it took me ages to not leave the room when it aired, and when I finally saw it, Bourdain really tried to remain pleasant as he choked it down.  The act later made him horribly ill.  Lesson learned - when in Namibia, stick to the more densely populated areas.  And if you do venture out to see the Bushmen, don't hang around until dinnertime.  Overall, however, Bourdain seemed to enjoy his time in the nation, giving us all a glimpse of the exotic locale that so few of us will ever be able to see in person.  Perhaps it's worth giving it a try ourselves, it we ever get the chance.

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