As exciting as the Etosha tour was, the highlight of our stay has to be the cultural tour we took into the eastern Kalahari to camp next to a San (Bushman) village, and the next day to visit a village of Batswanas. Our guide was Peterhein Kazepua (sorry Peter if the spelling isn’t correct), a young Herero man in his early 30’s. After working for tour companies for more than 10 years, he began his own company, Uakii Wilderness Survival, http://www.uakii.com. His passion is to encourage cultural understandings between peoples and at the same time to contribute to the economic development of his region. His business is one of only 2 black-owned businesses in the downtown of Gobabis, east of Windhoek about 3 hours.
The San people have lost their traditional territories where they led a nomadic hunting and gathering existence. They are no longer allowed to hunt animals because they used poisoned arrows, now considered to be cruel. Like Native Americans who have lost their cultures, the San in the towns are sad to see. Alcoholism is high and they have few skills to use in the modern world.
What is so impressive about Peterhein is his persistence in reaching his goals. He negotiated with a Herero farmer to use some of his land for a band of San to live.
Peterhein brings in his groups to meet the San, in this case 2 couples with 3 children, an older woman in her 70’s, her daughter and little boy, and Tomas, a 19 year old man who had to drop out of school for lack of money. This group has been there for about a year and will soon have to rotate out to make room for another set of families.
They demonstrated their fire-making, bow and arrow making, bead making (drilling holes in ostrich eggshells), and then took us on a trek into the bush. They explained (through Tomas who can speak English) the medicinal plants they use and found an enormous tuber in the dirt that can be used for water. And then we had the chance to purchase some of their jewelry and tools. Peter’s idea is that the families can practice their traditional skills while earning some money to help pay for the schooling of their older children. At the end they sang and danced for us.
Our next stop was at Metsweding, a village located on a Roman Catholic mission with a big school. Other than the 12 teachers, a bakery, and a couple of tiny stores, there is little way to earn a living there. One woman just came back, having learned how to decorate finger and toe nails and has set up her little business. The retired principal of the school and a number of other women have set up a Women’s Project. They have built 2 traditional Setswana huts (we slept in one), have a cooking area, and sponsor Meropa, a singing and dancing group that recently performed at the opening of a gravel road. The President of Namibia inaugurated the road (arriving several hours late, as the choir told us!)
The Setswana migrated from South Africa a century ago to escape apartheid, and some ended up in eastern Nambia.
The choir sang and danced for us and enticed us out to dance with them. A little boy of less than 3 sat next to me and I was told that he marches up to the front of the church every Sunday to get a blessing. After a dinner of rice, sauce, and the ubiquitous meat, we sat around a fire, bundled up against the cold, singing into the night. What beautiful harmonies, and as I had remembered in Angola, they are completely effortless.
The next day we stopped in Gobabis to see Peterhein’s office (he employs 6 people in his business), had a drink at his snack bar, and he gave us a tour of the townships outside Gobabis. He explained the history of apartheid in Namibia and how it affected the Africans. He also showed us a plot of land that he is negotiating over with the city fathers to turn into garden plots for the poor and unemployed squatters. They could grow veggies for their families and sell them in town at the market as income. One more example of his fertile mind and energy.
I’ve not done justice to Peterhein Kazepua, but I am flying to Mozambique tomorrow and want to get at least one post up about him.