Monday, February 16, 2015

Week Two: So Long, Johannesburg- Hello, Namibia!

By: Miranda Joebgen & Greta Carlson

To wrap up our time in South Africa, we had the opportunity to visit Pretoria, home to Freedom Park and the Voortrekker Monument – two places that focus on different aspects of South Africa's history.

We began at Freedom Park, which is a memorial for those who gave their lives in the pursuit of freedom.  It was established by the South African government as a way of addressing the public's need to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their freedom.  There is an Eternal Flame, which represents all of the unknown victims in the struggle for freedom.  Additionally, there is The Wall of Names, which consists of several lengths of wall. It holds the names of victims from any conflicts South Africa has participated in in the pursuit of freedom and humanity.  There is some controversy surrounding which names were included on the monument, however since it is not technically a war memorial, it is not required that every name from both sides of the conflicts be included.  While there are some who think the wall should be required to hold the names of those who died from both sides of the wars represented, we think that it is important and empowering that the names depicted are of those who were oppressed and without a voice for so long.  It is a vital part of the lengthy healing process, and gives power to those who didn't live to see liberation for South Africa.  The wall is meant to be living, with names being added as they are found or brought to the attention of the committee.  Currently, the wall has 85,000 names, with room for 150,000 names altogether.  As we moved along through Freedom Park, we also visited Sacred Isivivane, which acts as a spiritual resting place for all those who gave their lives.  It is representative of not only tribal religions, but all faiths.
Sacred Isivivane, spiritual resting place

Freedom Park has many aspects, all of which are beautiful and create a peaceful place of remembrance for those who sacrificed their lives for freedom and humanity. In addition to the outdoor exhibits, there is also a high-tech museum, called the //hapo Museum, which depicts Africa's rich history, beginning with ancient times and going all the way through the liberation struggle.
After leaving Freedom Park, we went to take a look at a different way of remembering South Africa's history: the Voortrekker Monument.  The Voortrekker Monument celebrates the Pioneer history of Southern Africa, and depicts the journey of the Dutch settlers.  The inside has 27 wall panels that are carved to represent the events of the Great Trek, which was the journey of the settlers from Cape Town to South Africa.  The building was built at an angle to look bigger than it is, giving it a magnificent appearance.  It is incredibly beautiful, and has an impressive view. 
The Voortrekker Monument
While it is certainly important for all aspects of history to be represented, we couldn't help but feel hesitant standing in the Voortrekker Monument, especially after having just visited Freedom Park.  One represents the culture that eventually led to Apartheid, and one represents those who fought against it.  Seeing such a contrast of how the past, mainly the legacy of colonialism, is remembered provided an important comparison to how we Americans remember colonialism. We celebrate Christopher Columbus and countless other explorers, and we credit them with founding America. Yet countless Native American tribes were forcibly removed and murdered in America's growth. It causes one to stop  and question our patriotism for events that caused so much pain and inequality.  This semester, we as a group are hoping to address these issues, and ask critical questions to develop informed opinions, not only in regards to South African history, but to our own as well.
After spending 10 amazing days in Johannesburg, it was time for us to fly to Windhoek, Namibia – our home for the next 3 months!  We spent Wednesday, January 21st traveling and getting settled at the CGE house, which is absolutely beautiful! 
The lovely CGE house!
On Thursday morning, we began to get to know Windhoek through a driving tour, led by our tour guide, Philah.  One of the main aspects of our tour was visiting the township, Katatura,  which consists of 68% of the Windhoek population.  Katutura means “The place where people do not want to live”, and it was named as such because black people were forced to live there during Namibia's apartheid.  While the name seems oppressing, and one might wonder why the community would choose to keep such a name, they have chosen to embrace the name as their own.  In further explorations of Katutura on Friday, we were shown around the township in small groups led by members of The Young Achievers.  The Young Achievers is an organization that gives youth support as they go through school.  Our guides were college aged, and they showed each group a different NGO in Katutura.  There are amazing groups at work in Katutura, and we had the opportunity to visit NAPPA (Namibia Planned Parenthood Association) and Katutura Soap, as well as a few other organizations.  It was an excellent opportunity to get to know Katutura more, and interact with people rather than concepts.  When you are simply driving through Katatura, or hearing about it's history, it is easy to pity those who live there.  However, there is a great pride surrounding this community, which we heard from the various individuals we interacted with.  They don't view Katatura as a place where they have to live, but as their home. 

We have only just begun our journey into the history and cultures of Namibia.  Currently, we have a surface level knowledge of these subjects that will help us as we move forward with the semester, but we look forward to having the opportunity to learn more about this place and what makes it unique by interacting with people on a personal basis, especially during our Urban homestays, which are fast approaching.  This semester we will be facing many difficult and important subjects, and it will be important for us to approach them with open minds, ready and eager to learn.

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at

No comments: