Summoning ancestral spirits

The scene is the Swakopmund graveyard where hundreds of the descendants of the survivors of the 1896, 1904-1908 wars of resistance against German colonisation have gathered to pay homage to those who succumbed to the concentration camp mal-treatment during the wars of resistance.

“Hau! Hau! Hau! Hau!” bellows the voice imitating the bark of dogs. “Children, what are the dogs barking at?” Enquires someone echoing an ancestral voice. “They are barking at people,” comes the answer. “What people?” The ancestors want to know. “The twins of Tjiute that have crowded the houses and overfilled the holy fires,” comes an answer once again.

Before entering the graveyard as per tradition, an elderly divine traditionalist must first talk to the ancestral spirits to inform them that their descendants have come to visit them and would be temporarily be disturbing their peace and rest. At this instance, this duty of summoning the ancestral spirits falls on the Ovaherero Chief of Otjimbingue, Gottlob Kahikopo. In fact, he is the one interchangeably simulating the barking dogs, the voices of the descendants and those of the ancestors.

“They are here to visit you. They are here to plead with you that they are still alive but with hands on the cheeks. They are all here. All dignitaries. I won’t name you as you are the ones who came here as though you were streamed along by our rivers up to here. Kapuuo, you who is rested at the mouth of this river that hails from afar, from Kotjimbumba Tjozongombe Ozombaranga. Tell the men who are rested in this river, tell them that all the dignitaries have converged here and are here. All of them, all of them. The child of Kuaima of Komuhoni (Chief Riruako) is here. The child of Zeraeua Kohambo (Manasse Zeraeua son of the Chief of Erongo, late Eerike Christian Zeraeua) is here. All of them, all of them are here,” Chief Kahikoppo spiritually connects with the ancestors.

“Yesterday” he continues - referring to last year’s pilgrimage on the occasion of which the traditional folk through their divine priests pleaded with the ancestral spirits for a safe passage to Berlin in Germany to collect their skulls - “as you know, you are the ones who have been left dead, beheaded and your skulls transported from here via the sea. They were here to inform you that they are going to collect those skulls and that your blessings may be with them.”

Kahikopo on this, informs the ancestral spirits that indeed the mission went to Berlin and is back with the skulls but that the skulls have not been interred as yet until the blessings of the ancestors have been sought.

“They are still here with their hands on their cheeks. They went to collect the skulls. They went with the son of Kuaima Komuhoni (Chief Riruako). They went in numbers under the leadership of the son of Kazenambo, whom they have started questioning what the matter is with him. He who would be stumbling but walk, who would be murmuring but talk.

“The child is indeed a nephew of an Omuwambo of Kahumba of Kovita. He is the nephew of the one who is legendarily known to have one morning been responsible for the cattle of Kotjimbumba Tjozongombe Ozombaranga, destroying them like one destroys tobacco in the hand. The child is a nephew of the son of the son of the soil and the one who says I don’t strike like lightening and why are the people fearful of me. Indeed he is the nephew of Kahitje he is not a lightening but people are starting to fear him. Yes, he is the one who brought back the skulls. He was the leader of the battle for the return of the skulls,” Chief Kahikopo continues his spiritual conversation with his ancestors.

But the community is dumbfounded, Kahikopo further informs the ancestors. While the struggle continues for the return of the skulls and eventually for restoration and while it is progressing, it is not without hitches with the community fighting among itself.

“They have started trampling one another while the battle seems to be progressing well. While the people are fighting this good battle, they are pulling one another back by the jackets. We don’t know why! Man of Kandando of Muheua, man of Karuuombe of Kehumba; you who talked to yourself and helped yourself with cries at night. Why are you now silent and don’t talk to yourself?,” Chief Kahikopo directs his plea to the late Ovaherero Paramount Chief, Maharero.

“The child of Katare (Samuel Maharero) went and came back, you brought him back and he is laid to rest alongside you. Haven’t you forgiven him? Haven’t you until now forgiven him if people are pulling one another while engaged in this good battle? What is the matter with you?” Kahikopo further tries to spiritually links up with late Paramount Chief Samuel Maharero, wanting to know from him why all this time he has not been able to talk to his father Maharero? This is since his return; actually, the return in 1923 of his mortal remains from Botswana where he died the same year. Haven’t you pleaded for forgiveness with your father? Or what is the matter if things are not getting right?” He pleads turning at the same time to communicating spiritually with the Omumbanderu who was born in Omusorokuumba, namely, Kahimemua Nguvauva.

“Our men are you only thinking about bygone happenings of yesterday, are you not forgiving the children while they are scattered here?” He further pleads with the various ancestral spirits both Ovaherero and Ovambanderu.

Kahikopo wants to know from these ancestors what they are talking about among themselves if not about the various problems bedeviling their descendants.

“Was it not the case that you only gave the land to foreigners in a bucket and that you refused to give them any land but today the land is being given to your people in a bucket but your are silent about this,” Kahikopo laments with reference to the current 20 hectares allocation of land.

Lastly, in terms of the unresolved matter of the return of the skulls from Germany and the attendant issue of apology and reparation, the diviner informs his ancestors that this mission continues “as not all of the ancestors are back yet” as their skulls are still in Germany. Soon, the mission shall return to Germany but pleads with them to do away with the “heat”, “rivalry” within the community. As much, he wants to know from the late Chief Eerike Zeraeua, who only departed earlier this year, why he has not as yet been able to inform the ancestors, “Haven’t you informed the ancestors that the Ovaherero that he (Zeraeua’s great grandfather) once gathered in Otjimbingue, you have once again regrouped but unfortunately they came and took you away.

“Men of our descent please, here is the community but it is desperate. It is pleading for your mercy. It is pleading for good fortunes, have mercy on it, so that it can carry on the battle.

Take back this bucket. Do you hear my pleas, my dear fellow?

“But child who are you?” The ancestors want to know.

“I am Kauvare the son of Uaovisa,” answers Kahikopo.

“Do you hear me, my fellows?” He asks.

“We hear you, we hear you,” the ancestors answer.

“If you hear me, then please open the gate so we may enter,” Kahikopo begs.

“You may enter,” retort the ancestral spirits paving the way for the hundreds of pilgrims to enter the graveyard and pay homage to their ancestors. PF