Namibia: 'Mama Penee' - a Tale of Genocide and Survival to Be Launched At NAGN Tomorrow

24 February 2020

JAHOROR Petronella Inaavinuise, who came to be known as Mama Penee, was a young girl of 11 when her parents were shot in cold blood before her during the 1904 - 1908 genocidal war in Namibia.

Waved away from the scene by a German soldier, she realised that it was her destiny to live. Finding water and food for herself and learning to avoid danger, she spent several months in hiding in what was then central German South West Africa. Courageous and self-sufficient, she learned lessons in wisdom, calm, and what is truly important in life, lessons which she later imparted to her grandchildren in ways both ingenious, frustrating and challenging.

Her extraordinary personal qualities and influence shine from this story, told by one of her grandsons with the insight and understanding gained over a lifetime of reflecting on his grandmother.

'Mama Penee: Transcending the Genocide' by Uazavara Ewald Kapombo Katjivena will be launched tomorrow at the National Art Gallery (NAGN) from 16h30.

This book is simply but beautifully written, primarily an oral history, a family narrative preserving myth, stories and fundamental values to pass on to younger generations, to guide them through life and help them make sense of the world.

In the case of this Ovaherero family, the horror and trauma of the colonial war and genocide is balanced by Mama Penee's memories of both good and evil on both sides, and her deep understanding and acceptance of human nature.

Katjivena's approach gives voice to previously silenced individuals and communities, and is especially valuable as a unique account of an Ovaherero woman's witness to the genocide.

Katjivena is a linguist, broadcaster, filmmaker and was a senior office-bearer in Swapo while in exile from 1964 to 1989. He represented the liberation organisation in Egypt and Algeria. After his return to Namibia for independence in 1990, he made a significant contribution to the new voice of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation. Currently in retirement with his wife in Norway, he writes about his cultural roots in historical context to preserve this oral history for his family and future Ovaherero generations.

- Unam Press

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