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Olufuko - are we ashamed of our cultural traditions?
Christianity does not have an untarnished record of destroying African cultural heritages. Some early missionaries showed no appreciation of what they perceived as ‘primitive, superstitious or ignorant’.
This is the attitude that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) is displaying regarding plans to host an Olufuko festival in Outapi this month.
Embarking on an African journey in 1993, the Catholic pope, Blessed John Paul II, called on African people to shine before others.
“You are light in the Lord! All Africa is being called to the light of Christ! All that is truly African, all that is true and good and noble in Africa’s traditions and cultures, is meant to find its fulfillment in Christ,” he said.
In the Omusati Region, organisers are putting the final touches on the preparation of a cultural event that is meant to ready girls for womanhood. Olufuko is a tradition where girls are taught traditional norms such as how to pound mahangu and how to take care of their homesteads and families once they are married, among other well-intended purposes.
As Namibians, we must never be shy away nor be apologetic for who we are. As part of their culture, a British bride and groom must not meet on the day of the wedding except at the altar.
In France, they behead bottles of champagne using a specially-made saber at weddings. This tradition, which started during Napoleonic times, is said to symbolize victory.
Just because people in Outapi will not be beheading champagne bottles with a saber does not make them primitive natives.
The Germans, Spanish, Greek and Italians are proud of their cultures.
The reason why Angela Merkel does not speak English during Eurozone debt crisis discussions in Brussels is not because she is arrogant or cannot speak the language.
She is a proud German who believes her language is not inferior to English, Russian or Zulu.
Instead of issuing baseless statements, the ELCIN should point out biblical transgressions that Olufuko is causing. In olden days, Olufuko was mandatory for every Omuwambo woman. We doubt anyone will be dragged to the Outapi event against their own will, because then that would infringe on people’s rights.
There are women in villages around the country who would voluntarily go for initiation because they believe it is a necessary exercise for their own personal growth.
Who is the ELCIN to deny them such an opportunity?