Past and Present meet in a Windhoek Heritage Tour

How to Travel Green the Namibian Way
April 25, 2018
Midgard Country Estate
April 25, 2018

The magnificent wall mural inside the Ministry of Mines and Energy, by artist Anita Steyn, Annabelle Venter.

Text and Photographs: Annabelle Venter

About two months ago I met heritage guide Asser Manya for a cultural tour to discover new places in Windhoek. Even though I have lived in Namibia for 30 years, I realised just how much my knowledge of the city was lacking, so we recently met up again for the second part of the tour.

 

Tour guide Asser Manya, Annabelle Venter.
Curt von Francois' daughter, Josephine von Francois, in front of his statue.

Asser is a gentle-mannered Oshiwambo-speaking Namibian, born and schooled in Windhoek. His parents instilled in him and his siblings that ‘hard work in all of life’s endeavours is the key to success’ and there’s an Oshiwambo proverb for that: Uwanawa ihauzi poka pala kayela.

He is one of the first specialised young Namibian heritage guides. Together with his partner Maria he set up Asmara Tours, offering cultural tours of Windhoek for visitors and locals to learn more about Namibian traditions passed down through generations.

Asser studied heritage tourism for four years at UNAM, followed by a one-year postgraduate diploma in heritage conservation and management. Thereafter he completed a 2-year internship with WWF at NACSO and then worked for IRDNC for a year.

Today we are visiting two new locations, a first for both of us. They will form part of his tours in future. Asser tailors a tour to suit your requests but I discovered that even two days is too short to see everything! One needs time to absorb the atmosphere and talk to people to enrich your experience.

Our first stop is the fascinating National Earth Science Museum housed in the foyer of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, next to the Safari Court. Entry is free and it’s open during regular office hours on weekdays. The museum illustrates the story of Namibia’s natural riches, focussing on minerals, palaeontology and mining. With displays showing the use of minerals in everyday products and a ‘dig’ where they can ‘discover and excavate’ buried fossils it makes for an excellent outing for children. It’s a favourite stop for schoolchildren during Heritage Week in September each year.

Windhoek has several fascinating museums, and most are situated within proximity to each other along Robert Mugabe Avenue. On my previous trip with Asser we visited the Independence Memorial Museum which showcases Namibia’s freedom struggle up to independence in 1990. Afterwards, we popped across the road for a few quiet minutes inside a famous landmark, the Christuskirche.

Fascinating geological shapes at the museum, Annabelle Venter.
Amethyst at the National Earth Science Museum, Annabelle Venter

Our second stop on this trip is the Xwama Traditional Restaurant. It’s a bit early for lunch but the restaurant is always open for visitors and locals to meet and browse. Asser shows me the fireplace on the soft sand floor, which is the most important meeting place in any home. Decisions and family bonds are made and reinforced around the fire.

What was started by Twapewa Mudjanima Kadhikua 10 years ago in a riverbed has now expanded into a ‘must- see’ experience for tourists and locals alike. A conference centre and VIP dining area can be booked for formal events. The restaurant’s menu includes mopane worms, matangara (tripe), local spinach and mahangu cake to finish.

The last stop today is the Old Location, Ohungi and Restaurant. The owner, Ovia Amuthenu, tells us that the building dates back to German colonial times in 1902 and later used to house a Portuguese business. Just outside the building is the historical connection to its name. A small wooden footbridge crosses a riverbed which before 1959 was the access route to the Old Location on the opposite bank. Across the bridge and further down the road is the site of the 1959 massacre of the township’s inhabitants in response to their protest against the looming forced removal to Katutura (‘the place where we do not want to live’). Ovia says his restaurant has now become a meeting place for young professionals living in the area, where they can enjoy traditional food and beer and where they network. For the older generation, it holds nostalgic memories, not always bad ones. For one gentleman it was an emotional moment seeing the bridge because his grandfather built it. A married couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the restaurant, recalling how they carried all their belongings across the bridge to a new life in Katutura.

Asser’s own grandmother was one of the inhabitants of the Old Location, and when we visited her two months ago she shared many fascinating stories with me. She showed us old photos of her maternal grandfather, Curt von Francois, whom she never met, as well as a picture of her mother Josephine//Nawaxas von Francois sitting at his statue. Asser is clearly a favourite grandson and visits her with gifts and clients whenever he can!

 

Asser with Ovia Amuthenu, owner of the Old Location Restaurant, Annabelle Venter
Eclectic decor at Xwama restaurant, Annabelle Venter
VIP room at Xwama with poster of the inspiring owner, Annabelle Venter
The traditional menu and courtyard at the Old Location Restaurant and bar, Annabelle Venter

WHY GO WITH A HERITAGE GUIDE?

  • You might miss all the best bits if you don’t know the area and you’ll get the most out of your city tour with a guide.
  • A guide can quickly assess your interests and take you to the right places so as not to waste your time.
  • He can advise you on the correct etiquette and answer all the questions you have on the history of Namibia.
  • There’s safety in going with a local because he can navigate roads and translate if need be.

ASSER’S TOP 5 PICKS

  • The Old Location cemetery – to contextualise your Namibian trip.
  • Single quarters in Katutura – a one-stop shop for anything you want to try in the township: kapana, spices, mopane worms, traditional ingredients, clothes, hairstyles, monkey oranges.
  • Earth Science Museum – an introduction to our paleontological and mineral history.
  • Penduka – local women’s artwork. You can talk to the artists and your purchases benefit the women directly.
  • Xwama – have traditional food and drink and reflect
    on what you have learnt about Namibia’s culture. It’s a homely ‘watering hole’ for all cultures to discuss and share experiences.

WHY STUDY HERITAGE TOURISM?

An African proverb says ‘if you know where you come from then you know where you’re headed’. Asser explains that it provides a good grounding for any student wishing to work in the tourism sector. Patience is required – it’s slow-paced, laidback and a people-orientated field.

He distinguishes two aspects of heritage studies: tangible heritage refers to cultural objects, whereas intangible heritage refers to the story behind the objects and is best conveyed by someone who has studied heritage and is involved in it on a daily basis.

‘History and culture are alive because the information is imparted by people through people for people’.

 

Book a tour with Asser through his website: www.asmaratours.com

 

Asser and his ouma, Verona Nangombe, Annabelle Venter
View from the top of the Independence Museum looking down onto Alte Feste, Annabelle Venter
Monkey oranges from northern Namibia are sold at the single quarters, Annabelle Venter
This story was published in the Autumn 2018 issue of Travel News Namibia.
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. With riveting stories, first-hand encounters and magnificent photographs showcasing tourism, travel, nature, adventure and conservation, TNN is the ultimate and most comprehensive guide to exploring Namibia. Travel News Namibia is published in five different editions per year. These include four English- language editions and one German. Travel News Namibia is for sale in Namibia and South Africa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Magazine Subscription

Please fill out the form below and we will get in touch with you

Title

Full Name

Email

Delivery address

Contact Us

Please fill out the form below and we will get in touch with you

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Subject

Your Message