Ducere’s engagement in Namibia has been primarily with the Okaukuejo people in Etosha National Park, about three hours from the capital city, Windhoek. Our African Children’s Stories program was delivered through the dedication of the Children in the Wilderness (CITW) team, a non-profit organisation supported by the ecotourism company, Wilderness Safaris. The Okaukuejo children were invited by CITW into the local Eco-Clubs where they observed nature and drew on their imagination to write their stories.
Our colleague from CITW Bongani Baloyi Regional Program Co-ordinator wrote, ‘The program unearthed creative talents that the community did not recognise or knew existed and provided hope and new opportunities for the authors and, most importantly, sharing their special messages with the readers and raising awareness about the role creative art and storytelling play in our lives’.
The Okaukuejo children are in close proximity to the extraordinary Etosha National Park. After sunset the waterhole becomes alive, which is the best time to see the endangered black rhino, herds of elephants, hyenas, zebras and marauding jackels in the constant wake of vultures waiting for the remnants of a killing to feed their young.
We also spent time in the north, south of the Kunene River and close to the border of Angola. The landscape was extraordinary, with long escarpments and no sight of waterways or any vegetation in sight. Our light aircraft seemed very small within the vast isolation.
North of Namibia is the home of the Himba tribe whose appearance and culture was mesmerising. Initially the tribespeople were cautious, even timid, but over time Di was invited to cook with them. Terri Irvin, our Head of Operations, provided equal fascination. She is nearly 6 feet tall and her long blond hair was perfect for braids. Our Founder ended up in a beautiful huddle of young people eager to communicate with him. It was wonderful to watch young children warm to him, trust him and want to stay close. We observed and listened as these people of ancient heritage, who live off the land, told stories. The bodies of the Himba people are characteristically red as they cover their bodies with a paste of butter, fat and red ochre.
The women carved camel bone bracelets with intricate designs for us, which we all loved and still wear with pride, evoking memories of those days in a truly remote part of Africa.
Our travels have been critical to our understanding of Africa’s diversity, its richness and its significance in understanding our anthropological roots. Ducere’s vision is to share the diversity through many stories written by African children, highlighting their similarities as well as differences so children all over the continent can be proud of their unique backgrounds, cultural nuance and view of their world. Cholastic Kaurianga encapsulated this when she wrote:
There are many contrasts across our country. I would like to hear about your country too!