Social function of Omayanda

By By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
May 2010
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THE name Ngavesute Mbindujetu could be of anyone, anywhere in the world. Ngavesute literally means “let them pay” and Mbindujetu “our blood”.

Dissecting and decoding the name, Ngavesute Mbindujetu, further, one finds that indeed it is African, Southern African, and specifically Namibian.

Further enquiry into the etymology of the name leads one to parts of regions like Omaheke, Erongo, Kunene and Otjozondjupa. A further look into this name could reveal that the bearer of the name may either be an Omuherero, Omuhimba, Omuzemba, Omumbanderu, Omuhakaona, etc. And eventually, one would find that Mbindujetu may have another cultural accolade. She/he is either an 1) Omukwahere, 2) Omukwejuva, 3) Omukwauti, 4) Omukwatjivi, 5) Omukwendata, 6) Omukwenambura, 7) Omukwendjandje and 8) Omukwatjiti. And here the journey of this installment takes a detour delving deeper into the social delineation among the Ovaherero of Eyanda, singular or Omayanda, plural.

Lately there has been a groundswell movement to revive the cultural heritage of the Ovaherero, spearheaded by a group of enlightened, conscious and concerned individuals calling themselves the Ombazu Cultural Heritage.

Its aim is to address such cultural aspects as how traditional marriages are conducted; that is what takes place from when suitors want to take that bold step, to when the bride is eventually whisked away from her homestead, and welcomed into her new homestead of her in-laws. No aspect of cultural practice will be left unattended and uncovered, the group vows. Adding deed to word, the group has already started with an Omayanda promotion campaign.

In this regard T-shirts and other souvenirs, like mugs, imprinted with the respective omayanda, and the poetic description of each, are already adoring the Nomad curio shop in Town Square in the capital. A book expounding on Omayanda is also currently being printed.

But what actually is Eyanda or Omayanda? Eyanda denotes one’s matrilineal origin. Legend has it that it all started ages ago with a Kamorua, and his sister, Karombo. They were living in different parts of the country. When Kamoruao passed on, Karombo and her children undertook a journey to his homestead for the funeral. The journey was fraught with trials during which the travelers split into smaller groups because of the difficulties they encountered, eventually arriving at their uncle’s homestead in different groups, at different times and under varying conditions.
The experiences each group encountered eventually gave rise to each group being known as Ovakwahere, Ovakwejuva, Ovakwauti, Ovakwatjivi, Ovakwendata, Ovakwenambura, and Ovakwatjiti Ovakwendjandje.

After a long and arduous trek, during which they could not bath, the Ovakwahere group decided to use an ointment they made from the oil of a cooked rock dassie to reduce body odour induced by the long travel when they eventually arrived at their uncle’s homestead. Hence the reference to “dassie people”

The Ovakwejuva, people of the sun, would not enter their uncle’s homestead at the time of their eventual arrival at night. Rather they waited until sunrise.

Ovakwauti made an odour repellant from the sticks of a certain plant with a pleasant smell. Hence the name “people of the sticks”.

Ovakwatjivi is about a mother wishing her daughter bad luck because of her snobbishness forgetting her humble background after marrying into a well-to-do homestead. Omukwatjivi, were associated with awful things.

It is said that while in the wilderness during the trek to their uncle’s homestead, the Ovakwendata found water dripping from a rock which they used to quench their thirst. They came be known as drippers.

When it started raining during the trek, this was a welcome blessing for one group that made use of this God-send shower and they thus became the people of the rain, Ovakwenambura.
Oukwendjandja, known to be the first eyanda to exist, that of Karombo, were known for the generosity of the Ovakendjandja. One of the attribute is their generosity while Ovakwatjiti, said to be an offspring of the Ovakwendata, is associated with a stick.

The essence of the omayanda is to keep the family bond among people of same eyanda. Otjiherero wisdom has it that: “Eyanda katjiti karikondua rikondua eyova (only a fool can ignore eyanda). In the olden days, knowing one’s eyanda meant knowing your origin and your family. One was often known more by his/her eyanda then by one’s name or the name of his parents. There was no way one would be stranger in any given place if there were people sharing the same eyanda kinship.

To date, eyanda serves an important social function within the culture of the Ovaherero whether it is times of joy or sorrow. In times of bereavement and before the beginning of the vigil, a female member from the same eyanda as the deceased ceremonies the house in which the vigil is to be held. Omayanda also plays a pivotal role among those from the same eyanda as the deceased, co-shouldering the funeral arrangements and related ceremonies like giving the farewell message, with the two omayanda, from the maternal and the paternal side respectively and taking turns. In the Otjiherero culture a person is known by three omayanda, that of the mother, which is her/his eyanda, that of his father, denoted by omunaa, and that of her/his paternal grandfather, uyanenwa.

Likewise the two omayanda also takes priority in committing the deceased to earth by throwing sand in the grave. The paternal eyanda is also responsible for the traditional distribution of the estate of the deceased particularly when the deceased has no will.

Omayanda also relate to one another in a social interaction known as a ‘form of introduction’ and meant to remove any iciness that may be there between people who do not know each other.

This social interaction is known in Otjiherero as ongura or okukurasana whereby they engage in social jokes with one another. Such pranks or jokes are only permissible among members of two or more omayanda.

In this regard Ovakwauti, Ovakwatjivi and Ovakwenambura, known as the united nations of the Omayanda, may pull such pranks or jokes against Ovakweyuva and vice versa while Ovakwahere and Ovakwendjandje, seen as sisters and brothers may direct their pranks and jokes against Ovakwendata. Such jokes may extend to accusing a peer of the opposite eyanda of being responsible for the death of a relative. In times of real bereavement such pranks/jokes are meant to soothe the bereaved peers’ pain.

Similarly such jokes/pranks also occur with respect to eating when members of two or more omayanda may joke with each other about the eating habits of one another. This, it is said, is meant to make peers share their food with others and not be stingy with it.

Different omayanda have come to be associated with different social traits like Ovakwendata known socially as go-getters; Ovakweyuva, known for their sleekness and wittiness; Ovakwahere known for their moodiness and Ovakwauti known for their tidiness and elegance.

Chief Fanuel Tjombe of the Ovaherero Traditional Authority, Tjitomba Ngombe, Mutjangana Rukuma and Manjeme Hepute are some of the prominent Ovakwauti.

Among the leading Ovakwendata are Ovaherero Paramount Chief, Kuaima Riruako, FNB Holdings Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Advocate Vekuii Rukoro and former Deputy Minister of Education. Dr Rebecca Ndjoze-Ojo.

Ovakweyuva include Professor Peter Katjavivi, the Head of the Protestant Unity Church, Bishop Assaria Kamburona.

Veno Kauaria, Director of Library Services in the Ministry of Education, Mutual and Federal Managing Director, Gerson Katjimune, veteran liberation politician John Garvey Muundjua and diplomat Ngakare Keeja rank among the prominent Ovakwenambura.

Minister of Youth, National Service, Sports and Culture, and Ovambanderu Paramount Chief, Kekaranjo II Nguvauva lead the pack of the known Ovakwatjivi who include famous farmer and Ovambanderu traditional councilor, Utarera Katjiuanjo and Public Service Commissioner, Festus Muundjua.

Ovakwahere include none other than Omukwahere supreme, Majora Sam Kamburona, Kovambo Nujoma while among the Ovakwendjandje two names come immediately to mind, Katuutire Kaura, DTA President and Arnold Tjihuiko, a member of Parliament.PF