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Subtitle: Historical Colour Photographs of Tswana Chiefdoms and Hereros in Exile
Cultures change quickly. In Botswana the changes have been exorbitant. The discovery of the Orapa diamond mine in 1967, the second largest diamond mine in the world, made poor Botswana very rich. The opening of the National Museum, Monuments and Art Gallery at Gaborone in 1968 with its many activities inspired art and craftwork all over Botswana in a modern way, though partly based on tradition. Therefore these photos taken on very short trips to the eastern edge of the Kalahari in 1953 and 1959 may in times to come be of some value as documents of the cultural Situation there in those years before Independence (1966). I spontaneously decided to put these photos together on receiving an encouraging letter from Mr Alec Campbell, the founder and first director of the Botswana National Museum at Gaborone, in May 2000. He assured me that all photos of Botswana before Independence were very welcome.
This booklet is meant to be just a picture book. My very personal notes on the different places I visited are secondary to the photos. The prints are made from the colour slides I showed to large audiences in numerous sections of the Schleswig Holstein University Society in northern Germany as well as in southern Denmark when lecturing on the subject "Am Rande der Kalahari" ("At the Edge of the Kalahari") between 1960 and 1970. At that time television documentaries on far-away countries were not yet common. In 1953, being inexperienced in photography, I used a wide angle photo-lens for taking colour pictures. My camera was a Leica III c. In 1959 my camera was a Leica M3. In both years I used Agfacolor films. In 1953 the Agfacolor films were tinged with red while other films were tinged with blue. Harmonizing with the red colour of the Kalahari sand - as far as I saw it -I preferred the red tinge though it doubtiessly overemphasizes the natural red colour. […]
In 1953 I had the privilege of staying in the Union of South Africa and in South West Africa for nine months on an exchange programme arranged by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Bonn and sponsored by the Education Department in Pretoria. My visit to the Mbanderu settlement at NCWE-LE-TAU (Lentsweletau) in the Kwena Reserve of British Bechuanaland Protectorate 24th August 1953. Plates 1 - 7
Paying a visit to friends in the bushfield of Transvaal in August 1953 I told them about my interest in the people of South West Africa. Mr. Fritz Nerlich at Genadendal, P. O. Zeerust, at once offered me a day's car ride to Ncwe-le-tau in the Kwena Reserve of British Bechuanaland Protectorate. He knew about a Herero settlement there, Alfious Chonja being the headman. Many years ago Alfious had been employed in Mr. Nerlich's store at Genadendal. Once actually there it proved that there were in fact two different settlements apart from the Tswana village of Ncwe-le-tau, not far from each other but not visible to each other, one belonging to the Herero and another to the Mbanderu. It was only due to my visit that even the trader of the store at Ncwe-le-tau, Mr. G. J. Vermeulen jun. - about 10 km away from these settlements - got to know about the difference between Herero and Mbanderu. Both groups were generally known as “Herero”. Due to limited time I could only visit the settlement of the Mbanderu.
Herero and Mbanderu have a common origin. The Mbanderu speak the Herero language. When wandering with their cattle from the North to the South in olden times they separated. While the Herero went into the Kaokoveld and then further south in the country which is now Namibia, the Mbanderu remained behind and settled between the Tswana, to the east of the Herero. Further wanderings followed. The name "Mbanderuu" ("Mbanderu") is explained in different ways by Vedder and Campbell. According to Vedder, the original name of both Herero and Mbanderuu was "Mbandu" or "Mbundua" when living in a country rich with reeds, called "ehi raruu". The people there were "Ovandu varua", i. e. "People of the land with reeds". The name Mbanderuu is - according to Vedder - composed from the old tribal name "Mbandu" and from the settlement in the land with reeds (oruu). According to Campbell the Mbanderu say their name derives from "okurua" which means "to fight" and exemplifies their former warlike nature.
When back in Germany in 1953 I found out that little was known here about the Herero and the Mbanderu in the British Bechuanaland Protectorate at that time. On the basis of old German literature and correspondence with people of knowledge, I published a paper on this subject in the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie in 1955. In 1953 the number of Mbanderu living at Ncwe-le-tau was about 35, children included. The headman, Alfious Chonja, was said to own about 200 to 300 head of cattle. Alfious' father, Johannes Chonja, had been headman before Alfious. Old and blind, he was still living at Ncwe-le-tau. He belonged to the refugees from German South West Africa after the Herero War of 1904/05.
His home had been near Gobabis. He and the other Mbanderu from Ncwe-le-tau had settled at different places in the Union of South Africa and the British Bechuanaland Protectorate, e.g. at Gabane and Lobatsi, before settling down for unknown reasons at Ncwe-le-tau in about 1932. Herero as well as Mbanderu at Ncwe-le-tau were predominantly cattle breeders. They also kept sheep, goats and chicken. They grew a little sorghum, beans and melons. They hunted with their dogs and used traps. A heavy lion trap hung in Alfious' shed. They had field huts away from the main settlements. They collected berries and wild honey. The young men went to the mines in the Union of South Africa and often returned home with tuberculosis.
The material culture of the Mbanderu was tswanarized to a very large extent. While the men dressed European the little boys wore traditional small frontal aprons, though not made of leather but of cotton-cloth, with small flaps on both thighs, the backs remaining uncovered. The Mbanderu women were traditionally dressed according to the fashion introduced by German missionaries in South West Africa in the 19th Century. The little girls wore white slips made of cotton-cloth. A wooden milk bucket and a wooden ladle as well as a stone axe for scraping the fleshy tissue off a dried cowhide were of the traditional style - the edge of the stone axe, however, used to be sharpened with a European chisel. In all other respects the material culture seemed to be tswanarized.
The beautiful blankets made mainly of the skins of the Black-Footed Cat (Fehs nigripes), worn by some Mbanderu women over their shoulders and also used by them to cover themselves in bed, may just have been of "Kalahari Culture" due to the availability of these skins. The rondavels with the enclosures in front of their doors, "lapas" (not generally attached to their homes), the granaries and the kgotlas, i. e. places of assernbly and courts ofjustice, corresponded to the culture of the Tswana. On the way home frorn Ncwe-le-tau to the bushfield in Transvaal we made a short stop in the Tswana village SIKUANI (Sikwane) in the Kgatia Reserve east of Mochudi on the border of the Union of South Africa.