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  • Writer's pictureSian Sullivan

"Densities of meaning in west Namibian landscapes": new book chapter from Future Pasts research

Future Pasts researchers Sian Sullivan and Welhemina Suro Ganuses have had a new book chapter published from their collaborative research in west Namibia!

Densities of meaning in west Namibian landscapes: genealogies, ancestral agencies, and healing” is inspired by oral history and cultural landscapes mapping research in west Namibia. This research has drawn into focus past practices of dwelling, mobility, livelihood and environmental perception amongst Khoekhoegowab-speaking peoples who lived into at least the recent past as hunter-harvesters and small stock pastoralists throughout the wider west Namibian landscape.

The new chapter by Sullivan and Ganuses appears in the volume Mapping the Unmappable? Cartographic Explorations with Indigenous Peoples in Africa (Bielefeld, Transcript, 2021), edited by Dr Ute Dieckmann, the German Principal Investigator collaborating with Sian and colleagues in Namibia on the new research project Etosha-Kunene Histories.

We are delighted that for the book’s cover Ute selected a composite image created from our oral history research for the exhibition Future Pasts: Landscape, Memory and Music in West Namibia:

ǁOeb: Cousins Noag Mûgagara Ganaseb (L) and Franz |Haen ǁHoëb (R) revisit places in the westward reaches of the Hoanib River where they used to live. Here they are close to ǁOeb, now the site of a high-end eco-tourism lodge called Hoanib Camp, located on the south side of the bend in the Hoanib River just to the right of centre in this image. When Franz, Noag and their families lived in this area they would alternate between harvesting !nara (Acanthosicyos horridus) from their !nara plants near the waterhole of Auses / !Uiǁgams, and walking southwards to Kai-as and the !Uniab River where different foods as well as !nara could be found. In the 1950s the coastal dunes were opened for diamond mining. Then in 1971 the lower Hoanib was gazetted as part of the Skeleton Coast National Park. As these areas became opened for industry and conservation, they became closed to habitation by those who once lived there. Photo: Sian Sullivan, November 2015, composite made with Mike Hannis using three 10 x 10 km aerial images from Directorate of Survey and Mapping, Windhoek, July 2017, as part of a series of images for the exhibition Future Pasts: Landscape, Memory and Music in West Namibia, curated in Bath UK (Gallery 44AD, 2017) and Swakopmund Namibia (COSDEF Community Arts Venue, 2019).

Recently Sullivan and Ganuses also contributed to a major national review of post-colonial and post-apartheid circumstances of Namibia’s indigenous and marginalised peoples, to inform the Namibian government’s Ancestral Land Commission: see here. The contributions of Welhemina Ganuses to this histories documentation work are being recognised through her formal appointment as a Councillor to the Namidaman Traditional Authority in north-west Namibia. This organisation contributes important oversight regarding the management of land, resources and cultural heritage in this area.


For more information about Sian and Suro's research collaboration see blog articles here and here.

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