I have always been a history enthusiast and public holidays in Namibia such as Independence Day and Heroes day were my favourites because of the stories behind them. The days just seemed larger than life and so important.
I recall always being fascinated by the different cultural groups as they would all participate in the programme and showcase their culture, the one day when wearing my ondelela dress would not mean I am going to a wedding or a family party of sorts. I loved that and the best part was being part of the programme at school and regaling fellow learners either with a poem or a speech on the significance of the day. Yes, I was that learner who would always be asked to say something on the day because I was such a bookworm and was even nicknamed ‘Speech Girl’. Then I would wait for the national programme on TV and sit through all the speeches. I was particularly always fascinated with the President’s speech. Even if it was always long and I sometimes would not understand what he was saying, it was very important to me that I listened to his message for the day on such a memorable occasion. The euphoria lasted until I finished matric.
Simply put, I outgrew it. Not because I became haughty but because despite the great story behind the commemorations of these days, the story became stagnant.
I started asking questions that no one to date has answered. So as we anticipate the 26th August to commemorate Heroes day, I want to put it out to Namibians young and old. Do we have space for new Heroes?
I was once asked to write an essay about Heroism for a scholarship and the two individuals I was supposed to draw inspiration from were Nelson Mandela and Cecil Rhodes. I sat there as a Namibian, flabbergasted that anyone would think these men are my personal heroes. Of course being myself I wrote that my Hero is my father and told the story of a man who opted to not join the liberation struggle but instead went to work as a teenager mining uranium.
That in itself meant he missed out on being a national Hero, let alone war veteran. However, his siblings went and he had to take care of the family in their absence in an apartheid ridden Namibia at the time. Long story short, I did not get the scholarship because I wrote about someone who did not fit the checklist placed before me.
I do honour the Heroes we celebrate and I do think that we should not forget where we are coming from nor those who went before us. I am told that one can only know where they are going if they know where they are coming from. That much is true, nonetheless I am asking myself as a so-called born free Namibian woman, whether I too can be someone’s heroin in the Namibian space. I think it is great that we preserve memory of our history, however I fear we are so engrossed in history that there is no room for new stories to be written. I am thinking of the next generation who will look at our current Heroes as ancestors. Who exactly should write history for them worth anticipating and maybe being glued to social media for? The concept of Heroes acre alone does not have the average millennial in mind.
Namibia is fast producing a new calibre of Heroes and Heroines. Men and woman who are impacting society in ways relevant to the challenges we face today. Pioneers in Education, Health, Arts and the list goes on. All I am saying is we need to create space for these Heroes because they will be the Heroes of the next generation. I will always recall the 26th August with a fond heart but what is still fresh on my mind, is the day three young men decided to occupy land because they were frustrated with pressing land issues our country is facing.
The day Dr Helena Ndume was awarded the prestigious UN Nelson Mandela prize and the day a young man said to be unintelligent by our education system invented a phone that does not need credit!
This list of inspiring Namibians is endless. Are they Heroes based on the checklist we have in the Namibian space at the moment?
Absolutely not, they are but influential folks and world changers but point is that their stories have replaced the old tales I used to be fond of.