By Marita van Rooyen
In the heart of Katutura – Windhoek’s famous township where the people originally didn’t want to live – is a little cultural jewel that attracts curious locals and tourists alike. Xwama Cultural Village, located on the corner of Independence Avenue and Omongo Street in the Wanaheda area of Katutura, was created by two Namibians, Twapewa Mudjanima and her husband Erastus Kadhikwa, who were both born with a large dose of ambition and a serious love for traditional culture.
With the Oshiwambo radio station playing in the background, chandeliers of recycled beer bottles above your head, traditional artefacts decorating the walls, sand beneath your feet and a framed photograph of Samuel Maherero, traditional Namibian meals are served by ever-smiling individuals such as Ndilimeke (Meke) Hedimbi. Meke serves oshikundu (sorghum and mahangu mixed with water and fermented for about seven hours) from a calabash and pours it into your own personal omaholo (wooden cup used for drinking) and brings mopane worms in an imbale (grass basket). The unique experience of rolling mahangu in your hands, dipping the ball in matangara (tripe) sauce and washing off a good meal with some omalodhu (traditional beer) is difficult to explain if you haven’t been there yourself.
Says Twapewa, “Our country has so much to offer. We have so much diversity in terms of our people and cultures. Being Namibian is a celebration.” And she proudly celebrates Namibian diversity through Xwama, which doesn’t mean, ‘to set alight’ in her traditional language of Oshikwanyama for nothing. Xwama caters for a wide variety of different eaters: day clients, business executives who want to discuss moneymaking schemes over a smiley (goat’s head); groups of tourists (anything between two and 92 people can comfortably fit into the space); corporate guests who bring their employees for a different type of team building; and event organisers who bring conference delegates or wedding guests for a feast of oshiwali (bean soup), wild spinach and ‘oshiwambo chicken’.
Xwama Cultural Village is the perfect spot to become acquainted with a Namibian lifestyle and gain a bit of proper cultural orientation. Xwama also delivers traditional food to lodges and resorts in the vicinity on request. “The commercial value of traditional products needs to be realised. We have so few companies that are owned by Namibians, especially businesses of this kind. I wanted a place with no tiles (hence the sand underneath your feet) and no flies; a place where I can eat my food with my hands, as it is done in the traditional villages. We’ve diluted our culture with too many things, and we’re lucky that the foundations are still there. We need to build on them.”
From 2010, the Cultural Village has a basket centre and craft shop on the property, where Tapewa’s traditional cosmetic products and omaholo and imbale can be bought from a group of local ladies, mainly widows, as a form of job creation.
Originally published on 1 March 2010