Meaning of some places in Oshiwambo (Part 2)

By Petrus Angula Mbenzi
October 2013



Okambebe: This is the name of a school, a parish and a village in Okalongo Constituency, Omusati Region in northern Namibia. It is 50 kilometres northwest of Oshakati. The word consists of the prefix, oka-, which means ‘small’ and the stem -mbebe, which means ‘frail’.


The place had been unoccupied for ages so there were only a few cattle posts. A certain man called Kambebe would decide to settle here, nonetheless. The place had insufficient water and as a result, Kambebe and his family suffered a great deal. He would eventually succumb to malnutrition while here and as such, the place was named after him.


Uudhengelo: This is the name of the village and parish in Omuthiya Constituency. It consists of the following structure:Uu– prefix, -dheng – root,-el –applied extension, -o – suffix, -dhengelo - stem.


The place had good pasture for livestock, so several Aawambo people constructed their cattle posts there. Squabbles and conflicts would soon become the order of the day. Since the area was/is in the Ondonga tribal area, most of the cattle herders who grazed their cattle here were the Aandonga-speaking people but the Aawambo-speakers from other tribal areas would also bring their cattle to Uudhengelo (the place of beating), especially the Aangandjera-speaking people.


Oftentimes, fights would erupt between the Aandonga and the Aangandjera cattle herders. The Aandonga would often overpower the Aangandjera cattle-herders because they were often armed with knobkerries. The beating would also occur as a result of competition for limited water resources.


Oneshila: It is the name of the township in Oshakati, Oshana Region. The place is named after a notorious once-very-powerful character called Neshila whom many people feared. A few shebeens were erected in this place several years ago. At the time, a few people settled here in search of jobs. Those who did not find employment turned to selling cooked or roasted meat. 


Neshila was jobless like many but survived on taking other people’s food without permission. Whenever he would find cooked meat in a pot, he would eat it in the presence of its owner and nobody would dare ask him why because he was very aggressive. 


Although shebeen owners eventually got fed up of his unbecoming behaviour, they would shrink with fear in his presence. One day, they decided to attack him. So they armed themselves with sticks, stones, bows and arrows, pangas and/or any other weapon they could lay their hands on. 


When Neshila appeared [as usual] and started helping himself to their meat, the armed mob attacked him and beat him to death. Consequently, the shebeen owners began a new lease of life and named the clusters of shebeens ‘Oneshila’. Today, this place has grown into a township, which is home to several Aawambos.


Outapiis the name of a town and a hospital in the Omusati Region, which is 90 kilometres west of Oshakati. It is predominantly inhabited by the Aambalantu-speaking people. In ancient years, tribes waged wars against one another here. The big famous baobab tree, which has a large cave, here, would serve as a sanctuary by the Aambalantus during the skirmishes.


On one occasion armed with bows and arrows, the Aambalantu warriors caught the Aakwambi warriors unaware and then ambushed them in the cave of the baobab tree. The Aambalantu warriors shot at the Aakwambis from the cave resulting in the injury to and/or the death of several Aakwambi warriors. 


The survivors escaped, leaving the Aambalantus at the baobab tree and claimed; ‘The outa pii(the bow and arrow were excellent)!’ The place thus began to be called ‘Outapi’; a compound noun consisting of a noun and an adjective. The final vowel has been elided due to mispronunciation and probably ignorance. Such elision has led to the misinterpretation of the name such that the name is now linked to the burning down of the hut of the last chief of Aambalantu called Kamhaku KaHuhwa. 


According to tales of the past, when a woman saw that Kamhaku’s hut was on fire, she cried, ‘Wuu ta pi’; (What a fright! He is burning). This interpretation seems to have distorted the etymology of the name because ‘ou’ is a common prefix in Oshimbalantu dialect. The “wuu ta pi” is therefore a misnomer for ‘Outapi’.


Another possible origin of the name is “Kamhaku ou ta pi”; meaning, ‘Kamhaku who is burning’. This statement related that the leader of the Aambaanhu called Kamhapu kaHuhwa had been burned to death. Those who ran away from the fire were asked where Kamhaku was and they responded, ‘Kamhakuou ta pi’. This version is not supported by oral tradition, unfortunately. Several Ovambaanhus interviewed to this end regard it as a fabricated theory. PF