Women in the Wilderness: Celebrating Culture

Apr 10, 2017 Community and Culture
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Marita van Rooyen recently visited a few of our camps in Namibia. Her first stop was at Doro Nawas where she enjoyed meeting locals as well as a cultural visit to the Damara Living Museum.

Rustan charms the ladies and shows off his home-made sun hat

The bare-breasted young man with the skimpy loincloth takes a leap in our direction. His smooth skin glistens in the hot midday sun, as he introduces himself with a poetic stanza of well-articulated clicks. He wears a big smile on his friendly face, and a dried-out leguaan (rock monitor) skin on his head. “It’s for the sun. I even made it myself,” he boasts with delight, and his chest swells in unison with the expansion of his smile.

Rustan !Uwuseb is a tour guide at the Damara Living Museum, a small traditional village based near the largest collection of petroglyphs in Africa, Twyfelfontein. Here, he works with 32 others to “keep the Damara culture alive and teach the youth – and visitors to our community – how our ancestors used to live.”

Apart from the obvious pride in his roots, Rustan is also an expert in charming every single member of our group – an assortment of women on a fact-finding mission to learn more about the diversity of this spectacular country we call home. He drops playful comments regarding his cousins, and invites us to take snapshots with other bare-breasted family members.

As we move through the village, Rustan introduces us to the holy fire, blacksmith’s corner, natural pharmacy and craft-making hut, before he calls us over with a sneaky smirk, announcing that the men will now show us how to make fire by rubbing two sticks together.

Burn, fire, burn!

“The making of fire is a test for the young men. No fire, no wife.” After a short struggle, many shouts of ‘burn, fire, burn’ (once again in a playful sing-song of clicks), and with help of some of his more experienced uncles, Rustan manages to get the fire going. It is celebrated with a session of jovial song and dance, and the whole group takes part in the excitement.

The celebratory dance

When we finally manage to break away from his enchanting spell, we head back to our cosy home-away-from-home at Doro Nawas Camp, and with a renewed sense of appreciation for the friendly staff – who, as part of Wilderness Safaris’ vision to contribute meaningfully to the wildlife and people of Africa, all hail from the surrounding Damara communities – we celebrate the cultural diversity that is Namibia.

Photographed and written by Marita van Rooyen

This post forms part of a series that shares insight gathered by one of a six-strong group of women who joined Wilderness Safaris in a quest to explore the diversity of the country they call home.

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