Inspiration for the name ‘Namibia’: Professor Mburumba Kerina

Inspiration for the name ‘Namibia’: Professor Mburumba Kerina

Inspiration can come from many places. It can come from good friends and family, or it can come quite unexpectedly from people you meet for the first time, who utter a few words that stay with you for a lifetime and are so powerful that they can affect a nation.

Such was the case with the name Namibia. The seed was planted when Prof. Kerina was a young man studying political science in Indonesia and was invited to the home of President Sukarno for tea. “I remember President Sukarno turning to me and asking, ‘My son, what is the name of your country?’ He wasn’t satisfied when I replied that it was called South West Africa. ‘Slaves and dogs are named by their masters,’ he said, ‘but free men name themselves.’ He suggested I write an article proposing a name and publish it in the journal for the ministry of foreign affairs. His words stayed with me for many years.”

Their time came when Kerina had completed his studies and joined a team at the UN – at the suggestion of Hoseo Kutako – petitioning for an independent country. He remembered Sukarno’s words and thought of a neutral name that would encompass all our ethnic groups. After much deliberation, he came up with the name ‘Namib’, ‘the vast place’, a name that refers to the ancient desert that shields the country on its western flank.

Kerina suggested that when the country gained its independence, it be known as the ‘Republic of Namib’ and that the country’s nationalism be known as Namibianism. The name filtered into the consciousness of SWAPO and the UN, and was adopted by the nations of the world, finally evolving into the name ‘Namibia’.

Little did he know that day as they spoke over tea, that a few words and a grand idea would grow year by year and eventually identify and inspire a nation.

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Posted on

May 24, 2017