Namibian-German Special Initiative

for community-driven development in specific regions

New Graft Centre to reinvigorate the same spirit

Gobabis Crafts Center
Chief Frederick Langman of the ≠Kao-//’aesi Traditional authority

NGSIP MEDIA RELEASE

The ≠Kao-//’aesi San ethnic group in the Omaheke Region on 30 November 2016 became proud owners of the Gobabis Crafts Centre thanks to the generous support of the Namibian-German Special Initiative Programme (NGSIP).

The Deputy Minister of Economic Planning, Lucia Iipumbu told the opening ceremony that the craft centre would be a benchmark for cultural heritage in the Omaheke Region. The craft centre, built with the assistance of the NGSIP, was handed over to the Xugurumasen San Cooperative Society in order to facilitate their commercial activities such as carpentry and metal fabrication. Xugurumasen (which means “do it yourself” in the local ≠Kao-//’asi language) was initiated by the community through their advocacy organization Xugurumasen San Cooperative Society to address those problems. Iipumbu acknowledged that craft centres are a relatively rare concept in the setup of the Namibian business environment. “However, heeding to a rational call we need to innovate and diversify our commercial activities,” she stressed. She continued to explain that: “I know for a fact that this space will become a principal hub for meeting the educational, cultural and recreational needs of this community as well as business activities”.

The N$1,470,375 new facility is equipped with containers designed for storage or operating rooms, toilets, renovation of existing prefabricated buildings, a water tank and tower and an assortment of equipment to be acquired once operational under the Capacity building component. Also speaking at the event was the Omaheke Regional Governor, Festus Uetele who urged the community to fully utilize the center without delay so that it cannot turn into a white elephant. “The centre should not become a white elephant like many projects in this region,” he said, pointing to a building that had stood empty for years just behind the craft centre. “You will be responsible to generate funds from its own programmes, because you will be in charge of its day to day operations,” he said. The Governor further urged parents to send their children to school, pointing out that education would put them in a favourable position to effectively manage the centre sustainably. “Send the children to school every day. Even if you don’t have lunch money, send your child to school, because the schools are absolutely free and all you have to do is to bring them to the school,” he emphasised.

Gaby Lafin of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Development Cooperation Desk said she hoped that through this craft centre the central German and Namibian governments would find complete understanding in order to find a common language of remembrance and the way forward to shape the two countries future and cooperation.

Alarmed by the growing disunity and tribal infighting among his subjects Chief Frederick Langman of the ≠Kao-//’aesi Traditional Authority called for greater unity and resistance to infighting and leadership squabbles. The Chief made it clear that his authority would not stand for “incidents which threaten the interests of the country, infringe upon the rights of its subjects to doing business in a peaceful environment." Langman did not mince his words again when he urged his people to work together as this would be beneficial to the entire community once they were united and stopped the infightings among themselves. “If I happen to fall down I would expect a helping hand to pull me up and this is precisely what the NGSIP is doing by helping us to help ourselves,” he added. According to him for years the ≠Kao-//’aesi have been the victims of a rapidly growing tourism industry in Omaheke, but they have shared very little of the economic benefits and have had no control over how their artwork and culture were being used. “If I happen to fall down I would expect a helping hand to pull me up and this is precisely what the NGSIP is doing by helping us to help ourselves,” he added. According to him for years the ≠Kao-//’aesi have been the victims of a rapidly growing tourism industry in Omaheke, but they have shared very little of the economic benefits and have had no control over how their artwork and culture were being used.

Meanwhile, the Chairperson of the Xugurumasen San Cooperative Society, Frans Anton Doeseb in an interview welcomed the centre as it will greatly support them. “In short, the aim is to have the San take control of their own destiny and welfare.” “Worse still is the fact that because of poverty, marginalisation and official indifference, the San people are at the risk of losing their cultural heritage and we hope this centre would help us to restore our dignity,” he said. The centre has been set up with two parallel functions to implement: First, it is an educational facility to help ≠Kao-//’aesi acquire general life skills and learn more about their own history, culture, and language. Second, it will also function as a tourist business centre. “Our future plans are to expand the crafts centre beyond beadwork and carving, to help them learn new forms that would appeal to modern markets as well as build an arena for cultural performances,” he explained. He went on to explain that the ultimate goal is to have the centre become self-supporting over the next few years, earning its own income through community tourism and crafts sales.

Another community activist , who is also a Nampol Sergeant, Elizabeth Maikey Amses thanked the NGSIP for the support, saying the craft centre would be a place where her people would also like to carry out their own research into their past. “We have long waited for this day and I hope that it will benefit the entire community and help eradicate part of our poverty in addition to creating employment,” she said.

After all, arts and crafts are ingrained in the very blood of these people. The "White Lady "in the Erongo Region is the creation of these communities in Namibia, which many of us now call home. For them Namibia has always been home for them for more than 26,000 years.