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Tsukhoe M. ǁGaroes     

(December 2021)


The ǂNūkhoen – mostly referred to as Damara people in the literature – are one of the oldest inhabitants or original indigenous people in Namibia, together with Sān people. Traditionally identified as ǂNūkhoen – which is literally translated as ǂNū = ‘black’ or ‘real’ people – they speak Khoekhoegowab. The ancestors of the present-day Damara are believed to have been present in the country for perhaps more than 2,000 years.

     Namibia was a former Colony of Germany from about 1884 to 1915. After World War One the country was assigned by the League of Nations to South Africa as a Class C Mandate, and hence was ruled by the South African Apartheid Regime until its independence on 21 March 1990, after about 106 years of colonialism. During the German Colonial era, long before the genocide of European Jews in the German Holocaust of World War Two, genocide took place in what was known as German Southwest Africa (Deutsch Südwestafrika). African resistance during this period, ending in crimes against humanity which, according to the British Blue Book of 1918, exterminated about 81% of Herero, 57% of the Damara, 51% Nama, as well as Sān and other black African peoples in especially the central and southern parts of Deutsch Südwestafrika.

     This paper explores, presents and shares a written account of the forgotten history of the brutal effects of this period on the ǂNūkhoen / Damara People of Namibia. In doing so, it adds a case of genocide realities of colonial Germany in Africa that is largely missing in contemporary discourse regarding these events. This paper was inspired by the people’s query in the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation radio (NBC Kaisame Radio Station) and the Namibian Government’s announcement to recognise and commemorate the genocide in the country. Knowing that the genocide affected most Africans mainly in central and southern parts of the country, the key questions that emerged were – How many ǂNūkhoen people were killed by Germans during the 1904–1908 genocide? Why are Damara people silent if the impact is significant, and does it matter to clarify the ǂNūkhoen story so as to contextualise understandings of impacts and contribute to reparation negotiations? What is the broader impact of genocide on the Namibian people? The distorted or, rather, forgotten history of the ǂNūkhoen people reveals an imbalanced geo-political body of knowledge, hence the paper aims to both contribute to research on genocide, and also to capture existing indigenous knowledge on the ǂNūkhoen History so as to place the genocide history into a ǂNūkhoen indigenous perspective.


Key words: Namibia; ǂNūkhoen; Damara; colonialism; genocide; racial segregation; war crimes; hidden histories; indigenous history; Khoekhoegowab; Southern Africa; German South West Africa; Hornkranz; Herero resistance; ǀHaihāb ǁGuruseb; Damara Kings; Gaob ǀNarirab; Gaob Xamseb.

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