19 March 2007

Namibia: Bible Translation Interrupted By Liberation Struggle Progressing Well

Windhoek — The Dhimba Bible Translation Project, which started in 1995 to translate the New Testament into the Dhimba language, has completed more than half of the translation.

The Ovadhimba people, popularly known as Ovazemba, are found in areas of Omindamba, Omakuva, Ombuumbuu, Etoto, Okanguati, and Ruacana in the Kunene Region, and also in Angola.

The translation project started with the Gospel of Mark in 1995, which was published in 2000 together with accompanying cassettes. The book of Acts and the three Epistles of John were also translated and approved.

Daniel Mbalundu told New Era last week that the project has also translated the books of Ephesians, Phillipians, Philemon, Titus, Jude and Revelation.

"These books have been reviewed, and we expect them to be checked by a consultant soon," he said, adding that Thessalonians 1 and 2 have also been drafted. Presently, the translator is working on the book of James. Two books that were translated earlier, Luke and Acts, will be published later this year as one book, he added.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) initiated the project in 1968. After Toivo Tirronsen, Jonas Tjikulya, Jeremiah Tjilumbu and Johannes Tolu translated the books of Luke and John during the 1960s and 1970s, the work stopped during the liberation struggle. But the project made an application to ELCIN to continue the work, after which a church board resolution was passed, thus restarting the work in 1995.

The Lutheran Bible Translators (LBT) and the Finnish Bible Society (FBS) began to co-operate with the Namibian Kirkon Tuki (NKT) of Finland to help fund the project.

Several churches met in 1997 in Windhoek and decided to establish an independent project to be supported by the different churches. A year later, a Planning Committee was established to direct the translation project, with a literacy committee being set up later to address the reading and writing needs of Dhimba adults and children.

Mbalundu said the aim of the literacy programme is to establish classes in every church or in each community where the Ovadhimba live in order to help them read and write and grow spiritually, using their own language.

Since 2005, the project has trained 25 volunteer literacy teachers to teach people to read in their areas and churches. As from 2004, six teachers established classes in different Dhimba locations, but progress has been slow due to lack of incentives for the teachers.

Mbalundu said the literacy committee has so far produced four literature books and two types of scripture cassettes: Bible stories and traditional scripture ones.

"Thirteen Bible stories with picture posters have also been translated into Dhimba. We are also in the process of publishing health and agricultural lessons and an HIV/AIDS book for children," said Mbalundu.

In addition, a Dhimba choir, called Mutana, has also been established to compose and perform songs based on scripture, but in the traditional music style.

The project further trains volunteers to teach people how to read and write Dhimba, market and distribute literacy materials to different communities.

Four workers and two foreign missionary advisers work on the project, while community members form part of the Planning, Literacy and Review Committees.

The mainstay of the Ovadhimba is livestock and crop-farming. They grow millet, maize and sorghum.

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