No matter if you’re black or white

I have now spent over a month in south-western Africa, namely Windhoek, Namibia.

People say it is Africa for beginners. I do not really know what that means. Does a country have to have no infrastructure, terrible poverty and a political crisis to ‘deserve’ to be part of Africa?

That said, though they say Namibia is a middle-income country, this income is very unevenly distributed. Many Namibians live in poverty – in a few years the tin shacks in Katutura in Windhoek have multiplied and multiplied. Germany colonialised Namibia in the late 19th century, and after World War I South Africa took over. This means that Namibia is still recovering from the consequences of Apartheid.

This is what has struck me most – how divided Windhoek is. The most hands-on way to experience this for a foreigner is to drive around in Klein Windhoek (white) and Katutura (black). The odds are the person behind the wheel in the enourmous 4wd jeep is white. He might be driving to his farm – the majority of Namibian land is still owned by whites.

A few weeks ago we were taken to Kiepie’s, a bar where there’s a live band, wooden floors, ‘couple’ dancing (something the locals call windsurfing) and only white people – Boer farmers, mainly, according to the people who took us there. It was bizarre to be in a place like that in a city with maybe five per cent white people. The climax of the night was definitely when they played ‘Black or White’. No, it didn’t matter if you’re black of white – everybody just happened to be white.

Now, before you start raging about my ignorance I need to acknowledge that I am from a very homogenous country. It is easy to point out that the moviegoers are white and the politicians in the upper house are black. It is easy for me to question the land ownership issue – I do not live here. I am not even pretending to have enough knowledge about the country to be able to analyse this well. I can just observe.

I might see it in a black and white way, but what I’ve seen so far is just that, black and white.


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