Oorlam chief cries over his lost community

06 Oct 2016 15:40pm
By Paulus Shiku
OMARURU, 06 OCT (NAMPA) - The Oorlam community is lost, its chief and leader of the Vaalgras Traditional Authority Joel Stephanus has said.
“We do not speak or understand our mother tongue Otjiherero. When we are in the south, we know we are not Nama, yet when we visit our Herero family we have a problem communicating,” said the chief at Omaruru during his first attendance of White Flag Day commemorations.
The Oorlam are Hereros who settled at Vaalgras in the //Kharas Region. They only speak Nama and Afrikaans.
Stephanus, a descendant of the Tjikurire family, brought along a small group of family members to introduce them to other Herero families at the event.
“Please welcome us and know that we are members of the Herero family. We are Hereros and remain as such,” he told Zeraeua Traditional Authority Chief Manasse Christian Zeraeua.
He said they do not know much about the Herero culture, but learned a lot about their roots here. “I am taking knowledge to my community so that we all know where we come from.”
Stephanus brought along the black and white flag of the Vaalgras Traditional Authority to the 90th commemoration of White Flag Day, where it was displayed beside the white flag, green flag and red flag of all Ovaherero.
The Oorlam chief promised to be a regular attendant of this event.
Giving a brief history of his community to Nampa on Tuesday, Stephanus said his forefathers from Otjozondjupa Region fled to South Africa during the war between the Nama and Herero beyond 1850.
These tribes competed for cattle and grazing land.
After crossing the Orange River into South Africa, the group stayed in Northern Cape, after which Stephanus' grandfather Elias Stephanus Tjikurire and his family decided to return home in 1859.
On their way back they found themselves in Warmbad, where the late Afrikaner Captain Willem Christian referred them to then German colonisers, who were searching for labourers.
“Captain Christian told the Germans that there are skilled, and strong people staying in my area who can drill boreholes, work on the railwayline and also transport weapons. That is how my grandfather, father and others started working for the German,” narrated the chief.
He continued that since Okakarara was very far, the family was given a piece of land at Vaalgras as compensation by the Germans where they could graze their animals.
This is how they ended up at Vaalgras in 1900.
“Some of our relatives are still in South Africa,” Stephanus said.
The White Flag Day is held annually to pay homage to late Ovaherero chiefs from the Zeraeua community, especially those who fought against invasions by then German colonisers and Nama people.