This week was a good time for settling in at the house and rejoining each other in community after the home stay. That does not mean that it was easy. Most people found themselves reading for class, writing papers, and running to Pick-And-Pay to get groceries/essentials (Nesquick).
To be honest class readings dominated most of my (Brett) time this week. However, most of the readings kept my attention and caused me to dwell on various topics: the most interesting being religion.
For religion this week, the theme was African traditional religious beliefs. There was a large chunk from a book entitled African Religions and Philosophy by John Mbiti, in which he discussed the various African concepts of God before the missionaries came. Being a theology major, this obviously interested me. What I found surprising was Mbiti’s statement that, “In all [African] societies, without a single exception, people have a notion of God” (29). He later went on to say that, “Every African people recognizes God as One” (35). This information astonished me. It also led me to think about the role of missionaries a bit more. If the African people already had the notion of a God, what did the missionaries do?
First of all, I believe the word “missionary” has a horrible connotation now-a-days because people associate it with imperialism and forcing your beliefs on others. However, I am not going to deny that some of the missionaries back then might have done this. What makes me mad is that most missionaries laid claim to exclusive religious truth and considered African culture to be inferior. Instead of seeking to understand African culture and African concepts of God, most missionaries straight up told them what to believe, what type of worship style they should have (from a white culture), and rejected all other religious practices. In my opinion, this is not how religion should work. No one should lay claim to exclusive religious truth, which ostracizes everyone else who does not believe what you do. That is the type of “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality that accomplishes nothing of value. Instead we should all learn from each other.
Personally I believe that almost all religions have elements of truth in them. However, religions run into trouble when they try to claim exclusive truth. This causes conflict and has caused wars in the past. War and hatred should not be the goal of any religion. That is what I find so painful about the history of
The claim of exclusive religious truth along with a sense of cultural superiority led to the ignorance of the missionaries and the colonizers as to the greatness of African culture. Until recently in one of the churches (I don’t recall if it was Catholic, Lutheran, or Anglican), the people were not allowed to use drums in their worship services! One of the best parts of African culture is the rhythm and beats provided in music. Why would someone deny them a cultural practice which would enrich the service that much more? Why is African culture less valuable than Western culture?
Still today people are fighting those same battles. In the worship services that I have attended, most of the songs were hymns and the services were not much different from traditional ones back home. Western culture with its “superior” religious beliefs and “civilized” ways came to
From religion to political science this week has been full of thought-provoking discussion. The legacies of apartheid and colonialism in
After independence in 1990 the government decided upon English to be the national language and that all classes beginning in first grade would be taught in it; this was to unify a nation in verbal communication that currently had at least 15 different forms of language. Yet, as a group we observed that in first grade teachers that are not proficient in English teach the children in English; how does this make any sense? Furthermore, who are these kids able to go to for help learning English when their parents never fully grasped the language? I (Becky) know that trying to learn a second language is almost impossible for me but that to even start to understand another language I needed to fully understand my own language first; I need a sturdy foundation on which to build my comprehension of a second language. These kids are never given the chance to fully comprehend their mother tongue and even more so never given any credit to the fact that they can fluently speak more than three languages by the time they’re “failing” first grade.
Urbanus, not only our current teacher but a former primary school teacher and principal, spoke of his theory of education: teach from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the difficult, and from the concrete to the abstract. If we apply this theory towards the Namibian education process it’s obvious that these are not built, and therefore, there is nothing to grow upon. This infuriated me. Under colonialism the government enforced a policy that led white people to succeed and blacks to fail; but it’s 18 years since independence and while the words of the policies my have changed the outcome has stayed fairly consistent.
There are people here that are trying their hardest to break this crashing cycle and I’m proud to say that I work right along side of one of these great people. Taura works with me at my internship location, Catholic Aids Action, as a volunteer choir group leader. Her dream of positively contributing to this nation is intoxicating, from the moment she and I first talked about her aspirations I’ve been hooked and eager to help anyway I can. The rest of the CGE students have gone under her spell almost as quickly. A majority of the students here are helping us plan and successfully run a fashion and culture show at the end of October. All profits will go towards the start up of Nurturing Grounds Centre in a village in the northern part of
If I had encountered someone like Taura in the
Taura also planned a community picnic at the
Since our arrival in August, the thing that I (Alana) have struggled with most is relating and justifying similarities and differences between African and American culture. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions and frustrations as I have strived to understand Namibians within the context of their culture in relation to my own upbringing. Everyday, I have to take into account things that I never fully considered in the states. Throughout my stay, I am constantly reminded of the level of implications regarding my gender and my race. I now know what it is like to be the minority. I now know what it is like to be the only face in the crowd completely different. I am constantly stared at and judged either for being American, or mistaken to be an Afrikaner. The most awkward part of it is that (I feel that) all parties are aware of my foreign presence. I keep telling myself that I am getting use to it, but the truth of the matter is that you never get use to it. You adjust, but never get used to being the odd (wo)man out. It has come as a surprise to some Namibians that the States are not just the bright lights of
Although contained within the same world,
As much as I love
 “Education reform ‘making progress,’” Article from the Namibian, September 16, 2008.
 In Class September 16, 2008.
1. Melissa and Brett walking to Pick-n-Pay towards downtown Windhoek
2. Students working hard in political science class
3. Taura playing the guitar at the community picnic
4. Enjoying a Saturday afternoon at the community picnic in the Parliament Gardens
5. For History class this week we visited the Heroes Monument on the outskirts of Windhoek.