I have felt the great sadness of losing my father when I was about only 10 years of age. There is no need for me to imagine the depression, devastation and anguish that once consumed me.
Subsequent to that, I learned how to deal with death. To make sense of it and welcome it, with an understanding that death is an integral part of life for it has meaning.
With an understanding that death is inevitable, for it is something I am not really emotional about anymore, because death is a phenomenon that will always be part of our sophisticated life cycle, of our ups and downs, of our rights and wrongs.
However, what’s more disheartening is when old people die. There is an African proverb that says Afrikan oral history is especially valuable and suffers a great loss with the death of each elder: “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground”.
They die with such depth of wisdom and wealth of knowledge, which is seldom transferred to the young, through relevant communication and information platforms. For it can’t be correct that the only historical information we collect and hold dear are paintings in caves and those stories told from one to another.
How our ancestors and elders communicate and transfer knowledge and preserve are a major challenge and part of our culture. To a greater extent this mode of operation has denied us of information that will do great justice, information that will explain our identity better, explain our history, and us understand our present to make better-informed choices for our future.
Without having to dwell much on the character and personality of the late Hidipo Hamutenya, I couldn’t help but think whether the next generation will ever be charged with the responsibility to remember Comrade Hamutenya’s contributions to Namibia?
More than that, will the next generation ever be inspired and motivated to help make this country a better place, as Hamutenya and others envisioned? Will we ever find answers to the unanswered questions?
Will we ever know the philosophy, ideology, ideas and principles Comrade Hidipo Hamutenya lived by? Will we ever get to read, or listen his own story? Will we ever get his version of his convictions, contributions, dreams and ambitions?
For instance, in a society where everyone has something to say about politics and history, evidence and details of first hand information and accounts are missing. The consequences are that much important national and regional history is lost by the day, resulting in a history distorted.
Often what we lack is a culture and tradition of knowledge production and transfer. There is a gap of literary contribution that needs to be filled.
There is a need for extensive literature from politicians, activist, philosophers, philanthropists and entertainers in the form of autobiographies, purporting self-justification of their actions, confessions, critical moments in their lifetimes – literally volumes containing public records of their public life and times.
These written or documented accounts of their lives would greatly emphasise their nature, role and era. For enthusiasts who are intellectually challenged, they can use other sources of communication, such as visual or audio recordings to preserve political and social contributions that will in the long run serve as primary sources of history and critical information, that will eventually be absorbed by upcoming generations and serve as inspirational sources.
We do need to create a society that inspires young people, especially leaders who need to emulate intellectual reasoning. Leaders, and not figureheads, are indeed needed to inspire communities through writing opinions that motivates them in their daily lives.
I am not equating autobiographies to intellectual literacy, but autobiographies and memoirs are important and provide a balanced discussion with lucid ideas, thoughts and convey a well considered message with elements of truth that will be passed on generations to come.
Let’s recreate history with information and knowledge transfer, by making time and developing the desire to explain to history why we find ourselves where we are, why decisions came to be as such. We have to keep diaries recording events and important conversations.
We must encourage autobiographies explaining and reflecting the detail and experience of politicians in government and political spheres.
For it helps make everything easier for incoming politicians and for those who seek to understand regional and national dynamics. This is the only way to reject our history being detailed and recorded by foreign media, diplomats and non-governmental organisation.
Listen to one of the first great autobiographies, Benvenuto Cellini of Italy (1500–1571), as he declares that: “No matter what sort he is, everyone who has to his credit what are or really seem to be great achievements, if he cares for truth and goodness, ought to write the story of his own life in his own hand, but no one should venture on such a splendid undertaking before he is over forty.”
* Matheus Pendapala Taapopi is a third-year Bachelor of Public Management (Hons) student at the University of Namibia.