Keeping culture alive

31 July 2019 | Cultural

Arts and cultural festivals not taking place in Namibia means that cultural practices are dying, without being transmitted to the younger generation.

Matheus Itula, a senior culture officer at Ohangwena, said since 1995 the country has hosted regional and national arts and cultural festivals, but this was until 2016, when the arts and culture division was transferred from the sports to the education ministry.

Itula, who was speaking at the Eenhana constituency arts and cultural festival recently, said no funds have been allocated by government to host regional and national events for the past three years, a situation which is killing culture.

Deputy agriculture minister Anna Shiweda personally sponsored the Eenhana event.

The winners are expected to represent the constituency at a regional competition in September, if the education ministry makes funds available.

Itula said that each region requires at least N$300 000 to host regional events, while the national event requires at least N$1.5 million in funding.

Participants exhibited their cultural items, while competing for prizes and rewards, with the Eenhana event attracting 10 participating groups, comprised of schoolgoing children and the elderly.

“The aim of hosting regional as well as cultural festival days is to revive our culture and traditions, to make sure that the old generation is passing on cultural knowledge to the new generation.

“This is done as competitions, where participants exhibit their cultural artefacts, which is expected to empower youth to develop the artistic skills to shape their futures and bring about positive social change,” Itula said.

“Since 2017, no cultural and arts days have been hosted at regional and national level, due to a lack of funds, and this is demoralising because at constituency level, some constituencies are trying by all means to make sure that cultural and arts days are hosted, even if there is no money to reward participants, in order to make them more competitive.”

The last annual National Arts and Cultural Festival took place in 2016 in the Zambezi Region.

Shiweda sponsored the Eenhana event with N$750 in prize money, certificates for the participants and a floating trophy.

She commended the leadership of the constituency for organising the event, and for their commitment to ensure that the festival is held every year, despite there being no money.

She said great importance must be attached to the promotion of local culture, in order to keep it alive at constituency, village and household level.

She said article 19 of the Namibian constitution makes provision for culture and states that: “Every person shall be entitled to enjoy, practice, profess, maintain and promote any culture, language, tradition or religion, subject to the terms of this constitution, and further subject to the condition that the rights protected by this article do not impinge upon the rights of others or the national interest.”

Shiweda said children should show respect whenever greeting or speaking to elders. She said it remains unacceptable for a child or young person to insult and disrespect an elder. “However, these days we note with great concern that elders are being insulted under the disguise of the democratic right of freedom of expression.”

Shiweda urged the nation not to allow our cultural values to be diluted in the name of democracy.

“Let us continue to inculcate the importance of our culture into our children, starting from a young age, by using educational institutions, traditional practices such as gathering around the fire, as well as events such as this cultural festival to impart cultural knowledge to our children and youth.

“Furthermore, cultural festivals such as this one provide an opportunity for us to showcase the beauty of our attire, art, dances, ornaments and the delicacy and nutritional status of our food,” Shiweda said.

“Dear children, you are the future leaders of this country, but without a strong cultural background and knowledge you will have no future identity. I, therefore, strongly urge you to make efforts to know your culture and the starting point is to respect your parents, teachers and/or elders.”

Shiweda said youth are free to use information and communication technology (ICT) such as cellphones to educate themselves on culture, instead of using them for things that will not build them in any way.

“I fully agree with those who say we cannot and should not accept the misuse of social media as the new normal.

"How do we, for example, convince the youth that slandering elders on social media is not an effective way to address what is wrong in society? That it is not the best way to change the status quo? I, therefore, call upon both the elders and youth to exercise patience towards each other, while we continue to find solutions to the challenges facing us,” Shiweda added.

ILENI NANDJATO

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