« 04.12.2005 | Main | For Some Practical Anthropology. »

December 27, 2005

Profaning the Sacred

This history is, for me, the initial history of Hereros’ loose of tradition. And it didn’t happened, on my point of view, just because of those first missionaries and colons, but also with Herero’s loyal family own desire to develop their people and to be like the “white man”.
We can begin on the period before the first German missionary came to the territory, when the Herero people had a strong belief on the holy fire and their ancestors. People trusted on theirs god and saints, they would go to the “papa” – owner of the family holy fire – and asked for some blessing, cure, et cetera and the papa would go before the holy fire – today it is a simple place, some wood traditionally putted between the papa’s house and his family kraal that had to be in front of his house, in the middle of the family village – claim for their family ancestors for all those requests, and every morning, when the sun was coming out and every sunset, the papa would go there, put fire on some stokes, talk to the ancestor to remember all those requests, so they could let god know about it and give the blessings for his people. The “papa” usually would also walk into the houses with this burning wood to bless their homes. As any of those traditional religions, there were some rules that had to be treated with respect, or all those requests would not be realized. Herero people are divided in totemic groups, so, as we know, every groups has some particularly rules, like not eat some kind of animal, et cetera.
Well, between the 1830s, Germans missionaries came to the Herero people talking about their god and the power of it. They said the holy fire was wrong and the only solution for all they was the bible. Some Hereros became Christians and some of the non-Christians start to see that the new Christians were fine, they were being blessing with good plantations and cattle, so, when the holy fire’s believers sow it, they and their religion it self became weak and all its believers were now disappointed with their god because those traitors had not been punished by their ancestors, so they start to think the holy fire was not so strong. To fulfill these problems, those who don’t wanted to become Christians went to the Ovambo people to get the witch crafters’ magic, what until now were separated from the holy fire’s scheme. The sacred started to be profaned.
<< Now, just a little more information before to continue our history. It was the nine of this month when I went to see Matuzee’s grandmother. An 89 years old lady, very week, but with a lot of information. When I asked her how the witchdoctors came into the holy fire rituals, she said, very angry that this was German’s missionaries’ faults. They were the ones to “lead” the Herero people to look for something different for what those missionaries were saying to find their strength again. They needed something to hear them, to attend their requests as quickly were possible – as magic always do –, because the holy fire alone were not working any more. So the colonialism changed some thing from Hereros’ traditional religion.
But we need to have on mint that on traditional tribes – or primitive people as the Hereros could be called on that time – the religion is very close to the government – those political aspects of their life – and to the social life. So when you start to change the religion you must know some time you’ll change all the society and finally get what you, as a colonialist want: to rule. And it was not different with Herero people. >>
So, after that first profanation – as I’m calling those religious changes – and after more the 50 years, on 1890 died the great Herero Leader, Maherero. He was a smart man, but was his wisdom that some how leave him to death. You know, after not so much time of colonization the Germans leaders were trying to get all this land for their own, so, they simply went to Maherero to ask it. << Hum, ironic as always >> But – this time just funny – Maherero would just take some bucket and put some sand inside and give – smartly – the “land” to the Germans. Well maybe the Germans were not so patient so they went to Maherero son, Samuel Maherero and started to give him food, cloths and a lot of drinks. Quickly they started to ask him how they could have the land. “Just killing my father, this way I’ll be the new leader and I can give you the land” it was the answer, “but how to do it”, the Germans continued, “Just shot him”. But they didn’t want to do it that way, so they ask for another way to kill him. And they got it when Samuel Maherero said that their family has a totemic group and they can not eat animals with rows or with the sand color (their sand: kind of yellow). Finally, the Germans – with Samuel Maherero informational help – just went to Maherero house, and putted a Camel in front of his house and than called for him. The grandmother said that when he sows it, on the same time he got seek, but didn’t die. Just later, on 1890 Samuel Maherero mother made a camel’s soup and when Maherero proved he died with no air, the soup just stuck on his trough.
The history goes on with the peace treat between Samuel Maherero – representing the Herero people – and Germans colons. Samuel though German’s would help his people to have all those good things they were giving him, he though Herero people, would now, with this friendship be developed as the Germans. But it wasn’t like that, soon the Germans started to ask for all Herero Land and, when Samuel Maherero sows that there were nothing he could do to stop them, the war finally started and ended with 65% of Herero people died and the Germany’s victory.
Later that, the Herero people continued to be explored, even later when the Holland “Boas” called Hereros for another battle against Germans. Even with Holland victory the Herero people had not get any thing of those development’s countries had, just the poor side.
Today almost all Hereros in Namibia – during the war a lot of Hereros migrated to Angola, Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa – live in the villages, with out job, some times with out a house, light or water.
Where is the traditional way of life? I just see people fighting to survive.

Posted by josue at December 27, 2005 11:03 AM