The rich values and customs of the Ovambo culture – The builders of the foundation to my life

The rich values and customs of the Ovambo culture – The builders of the foundation to my life

My aspiration is drawn from the Namibian Ovambo culture. Its strong customs, values and principles has crafted me into a young vibrant Namibian determined to work towards reviving the peace, love and tranquillity that used to once co-exist between nature and its people. Listen to my story, the story on how I developed a strong link to nature.

My name is Reinhold Inekela Mwetusala and I am born  of the Ovambo tribe, in a small village not far from the nearest town Ondangwa. Folktales told by my late namesake spoke about how birds used to sing my name up in the trees, every time he walked by herding his cattle. Chirp! Chirp! They sang, ‘’ there comes the wise ruler. Every evening I would sit beside him around the burning bond of fire and enthrallingly listened to the beautiful stories he told. Soon after the first story, the whole family joins us around the fire. I would beg him to imitate the birds again and he would do it so funny and beautiful that everyone around the fire bursts out in tears of laughter. Its only now that I realise it, bond fires played a crucial part in strengthening family bonds.

Generations to generations it remained a place where people lump together to share important conversations and reflect on the day. Around the fire I discovered the importance of living sustainably, giving clothes that no longer fits you to the younger children and using water wisely in the dams to sustain us the next dry season. It took me several years to understand this, after surviving my grandmother’s whips from swimming in the rivers.

Every day I would listen to the birds sing in the trees and would smirk as I walked home from fetching water from the river. In a blink of an eye, I became an enemy of the same birds I used to love, feeling sad and betrayed; they no longer sang for me but flip their wings and flew away. Later we had moved from my grandmother’s house to our new home by the banks of the river, which my father built for our family. At 6 years old, I would join the rest of the village boys with our homemade caterpillars to shoot birds and take them home.

The reason behind the haunt wasn’t really the need for food, it was more of a hunting game, and the winner was he/who had the most birds around his waist. Soon there was no bond fires, no trees and the river completely dried up. Everything that gave purpose and identity to the village vacated. Modern houses replaced huts and our sacred meetings at the river point were no more, as development had brought water and electricity to our homes.I remember my dad sitting in his favourite plastic chair he had bought in Walvis Bay ,telling me about the great forest that use to surround the river, ” It was a nightmare gathering lost cattle in that forest, it was so thick and dense, with glowing eyes of cats ” , he said. I was shocked and amazed because all I could see was a dry river with countable number of trees surrounding it.

He further continues to tell me about how they used donkeys for ploughing their fields, ‘’ you were born hearing the sound of tractors my boy‘’, and he laughs it off. Everything had completely changed my boy, we had good years and you are face rough times, so remember to always work hard and make me proud, I gave him a hug and joined my mother to make dinner in the kitchen.

In 2002 I moved to Walvis Bay with my dad and the world completely changed for me, everything became so different and alien to me. My dad enrolled me in Primary school, in which the foundation to my life was set as a first grader. Like any other nerd, I became in love with numbers, but as time passed I grew a strong intrinsic link to art. Astonishingly, my paintings would always differ from those of my classmates. Many kids would paint images of a beautiful happy family and but my paintings would always portray the sea, dunes, birds and beautiful palm trees.

It was clear that I had became in love with Mother Nature, the beautiful landscapes of Walvis Bay was so amazing. I became the little boy with the big brain, passing all my subjects with rainbow colours to a point where every teacher loved and revered me, even the dark haired teacher with the big brown glasses, I still remember her for labelling me ‘’ dump ‘’ on the first day of school, for sharing my bread with pigeons that hovered over my lunch box during break time.

They were such beautiful birds that had found a home in the premises of our school, flipping their wings and circumnavigating over our school each morning around 10 am, as they fed on pieces of snacks that fell down, as children played. Every Monday and Friday morning as we assemble for singing and praise, I would often stare at the pigeons on the roof of classes, making a promise to myself, to always remain humble and peaceful, as signified by the white dove in Noah’s story. If it wasn’t enough for everything I had achieved as a fifth grader, something else got enhanced within me, creativity.

I had developed an eye for imagination, as an 11 year old I could perceive the world in new ways, recognize ideas, find hidden patterns and make connections between similarly unrelated phenomena. Throughout my secondary years, I had become entirely sensitized and empowered to live sustainably in the world we live in. Life science and geography taught me about the importance of water resource management and the consequences that will follow if we don’t practice such principles.

Today because of my culture, I have developed into a vibrant young man with a vision.Today  At 21 I have successfully obtained my bachelors in Regional and Rural Development at the Namibia University of Science and Technology. I have successfully written over 14 social and environmental poems of which two have been published in the Australian Science rhymes. I have co-written several articles of which one has been published in the social change journal and the ‘’ solutions magazine ‘’. I have recited one of my poems titled ‘’ a call for a cure ‘’ at the GPIW gathering of young ecologist from all over Africa in Morocco, together with Buddhist monks from far as USA and Uganda.

Today I’m still pursuing my Honours in Regional and Rural Planning at NUST. I’m also acting as the Communications officer of the Namibian Coalition on Climate Change and as the programmes officer at progress Namibia, where we help to promote sustainable development in African countries.  On many of my Fridays, I run youth development programmes on environmental issues and sustainability. I am the youngest member in the Namibian Environmental and Wildlife Society as well as the For progress Namibia project’’ Towards new wellbeing indicators for development ‘’.

by Reinhold Inekela Mwetusala