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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'Making Tradition': Healing, History and Ethnic Identity among Otjiherero-Speakers in Namibia, c. 1850-1950
Author:Wallace, MarionISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:Namibia
Subjects:ethnic identity
traditional medicine
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Ethnic and Race Relations
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3557367
Abstract:For at least the last century and a half, Otjiherero-speakers in central Namibia have engaged in healing rituals played out around the Holy Fire and involving a resolution of tension through appeal to male patrilineal ancestors. These ceremonies are part of traditions that have increasingly come to define Herero ethnic identity, and that have been deeply affected by the historical developments of the period. The first part of this article traces these changes and their effects on the development of healing within a broader ritual tradition, arguing that the genocide of Herero in 1904 and the burial of Samuel Maharero at Okahandja in 1923 were defining moments in this history. Healing at the Holy Fire has not, however, been the only source of medical care for Herero, who have also frequently crossed putative ethnic boundaries in their search for healing. The definition of healing around the Holy Fire as the essence of Herero healing is one way in which a specifically Herero identity was constructed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 'Herero healing' (in the sense of ritual healing) may not have been the preferred option for many Herero, but choices of healing were made within the context of the dynamics of power played out between ethnic groups in central Namibia. Conversely, the study of indigenous medicine and ritual reveals evidence about the nature of ethnic and regional relations within Namibia, illuminating the dynamics of power and exclusion, and the struggles for the control of resources. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]