Namibia: Odelela Festival Coming in October

15 September 2021

THE Odelela Festival, an annual Namibian cultural heritage event is back, said organisers on social media recently.

The event celebrates the Odelela's importance to national identity and culture through workshops, showcases, cuisine and storytelling.

Slated to take place from 1 to 3 October at the National Museum of Namibia in Windhoek, the festival aims to awaken cultural knowledge within the youth, says creative director and project manager Loide Nantinda.

"This project seeks to tap into knowledge that dates back generations. As the community changed from wearing leather to Western clothes, prominently in the mid 1950s - white linen was often worn in the form of a skirt that became popular among women as they increasingly abandoned their leather skirts that once reflected their ethnical identity like the 'onguwo/oshivelelo'," Nantinda says.

The odelela attire project is a form of heritage preservation that draws its historical content from the norms, beliefs and values of practices, identity, belonging, cultural pride, inclusivity and inter-generational learning.

"Odelela is the local name derived from the Oshiwambo language which reflects the flaps as a person moves in the skirt. Initially, these skirts were worn topless but later a new fashion of wearing the skirts with white singlets was invented and became popular lasting through the 1950s to this day," Nantinda says.

The festival was first held in 2018 and is the brainchild of cultural enthusiast, Elly Namashisha Ihuhua, who is very knowledgeable about Oshiwambo heritage, storytelling and all things cultural. Ihuhua is an entrepreneur who is passionate about women's empowerment and bringing people from all walks of life together.

"This year we can look forward to an odelela-themed fashion show by local talented tailors. Our keynote speaker for the opening ceremony will be Esther Moombolah-Goagoses, director of the National Museum. She will be going in-depth on the origin and story of the odelela material. At the festival there will be market stalls, cultural performances, storytelling and so much more," Nantinda says.

Ihuhua says when the festival started it was about testing the waters. It has since gained momentum and support.

"We need to be proud as Namibians and celebrate it. The odelela material has become a proudly Namibian brand. It is unique and recognised to be of Namibian heritage when worn outside our borders. That means a way forward in trademarking our heritage. It is really a special celebration for us Namibians," Nantinda says.

"Although odelela derives from the Oshiwambo culture, it has become part of Namibians' heritage as a whole. Odelela material is widely used by Namibians from all cultural backgrounds."

Nantinda urges the public to come out in numbers to celebrate, have fun and learn together. She says that national unity is important, especially in times like these.

"Come learn something new about being Namibian. Let's have fun getting your odelela material designs showcased at the festival. Eat some amazing authentically Namibian cuisine and watch some cultural performances," she says. "All are welcome."

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