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Compiled Sanet van Zijl | Photo Marita van Rooyen
On the 8th of May 1915 a historic battle took place in Namibia that it’s people still remember today: the battle of Sam !Khubis. German colonial army attacked the stronghold of the Baster people, nearly exterminating their population. Luckily, the forces retracted and to this day the battle is commemorated as the day that the Basters stood together to overcome hardship.
Basters are an ethnically mixed group in Namibia and northwestern South Africa, most of whom are said to be descendants of 17th- and 18th-century Dutch and French men and indigenous Nama women of southwestern Africa. While some people consider the term “Baster” demeaning, the Basters proudly use the term as an indication of their history.
This year celebrates the 100th year since the battle of Sam !Khubis took place. The Baster community of Rehoboth plans on celebrating the occasion with festivities stretching over three days. The festival will be longer than usual this time around and more visitors are expected to attend. Festival committees are hard at work to make this the best Sam !Khubis remembrance the town has ever seen.
The Basters took an oath on the day of the battle before the Almighty, that the covenant would always be honoured, even if only one Baster remained on this earth. As from the year that followed, every Baster who could make it went to !Khubis on the 7th of May in order to remember the lives lost and the lives saved.
After the battle, in the early morning hours of the 8th the covenant was commemorated with prayer and song, because it is the highest praise that one can bring the Lord. Hymns echoed throughout the surrounding hills. Afterwards shots were fired in the air. Later in the morning a service was held and people started returning home. A !Khubis commemoration without singing in the early hours of the morning is uncommon and if a person is not prepared to sacrifice his/her morning sleep on that sole morning of 8th May, they are advised to rather stay away. This is why the official commemoration usually kicks off with a church service and a march in town before the festival-goers head to the hills southwest of town where the actual massacre happened.
The festival will take place from 6-8 May and the committee planning the festivities is currently focused on raising funds for upgrades to the memorial ground and festival activities. Their efforts already started in November last year, where they held a gala-dinner and raised more than N$30 000. Similar fund raising events will be held in March and April in Windhoek and Swakopmund.
The committee has also sold 75 golf shirts and 50 caps with the new centennial logo on. These items are exclusive as the design will not be available for retail again.
Infrastructure on the memorial site is currently being upgraded, these efforts started on the 20th of January. The plan is to build new ablution facilities, as well as a kiosk and dining facilities for invited guests, speakers and other important individuals.
The vision that the committee has for the memorial site is to upgrade it to a point where future generations will look back and be proud of their heritage. They want to leave behind a place that can be built upon. That is the reason why they are involving youth in their projects, to create a sense of pride and community.
The next big fund raising event is the Baster Culture Day and horse race, taking place on the 28th of February at Rehoboth show grounds. Some of the festivities and cultural activities include branding of a calf, riding a mechanical bull and a sightseeing tour of the houses of the Baster forefathers.
In order to attract more people to the festival this year, the committee will be partnering with the I Dream Africa safari-group. Together, they aim to have tented camps available at the 3-day event.