Oshipe festival at Unam gets bigger and better

07 Oct 2013 09:00am
WINDHOEK, 07 OCT (NAMPA) - The second annual harvest festival, which focused on different aspects of the Oshiwambo culture, took place at the University of Namibia (Unam) on Saturday.
Known as ‘Oshipe’, the festival is held in honour of harvesting, the cooking of traditional food for the first consumption, and thanksgiving to the ancestors.
The Oshiwambo word ‘Oshipe’ means ‘new’.
Apart from the promotion and preservation of culture, the festival also forms part of the academic exercises of students studying Oshiwambo in the Department of Languages and Literature Studies at Unam.
Students dressed in traditional attire such as Ondelela (traditional skirt), beads and hats as well as bows and arrows which are carried by men, illustrated how the different types of Oshipe are commemorated to a panel of judging lecturers.
Wilhelm Elinashe Uutoni was one of the judges and organisers of the festival. He told Nampa that the event has improved this year as more methods of how to prepare Oshiwambo traditional food were illustrated, with about 120 students taking part in the exercise.
During Oshipe, a bit of all the food which is prepared is ‘given’ to the ancestors before people start eating or drinking.
This is for instance done by drinking traditional beer, and blowing it to the east and west, or throwing porridge and spinach in the same directions while ‘speaking’ to the ancestors to thank them for blessings and also to pray for more blessings such as rain and food in the next year.
Traditional Oshiwambo food includes Marula and nut oil, traditional mahangu or sorghum beer, mahangu porridge and bread, palm fruit and traditional sugar cane, amongst others.
Every household hosts more than four Oshipe festivals every year, according to the different seasons.
The Oshipe for fresh spinach takes place in December, while the Oshipe for Marula juice usually takes place in January when the fruit is ready.
Other illustrations include explaining in detail the different compartments of the traditional homestead, dances and songs, pounding mahangu, and the preparation of Marula oil, as well as threshing.
The festival also teaches young people the cultural ways of respect and good conduct in society, especially in front of elders.
Petrus Angula Mbenzi, who is also an Oshiwambo lecturer at Unam, explained to this agency that such activities are not only crucial as academic exercises, but also to teach people about culture.
Mbenzi said in addition to culture, the festival also promotes the values and norms of the Oshiwambo people.
“We are doing this to preserve the culture and guard against immoral behaviour,” he noted.
The festival will continue to grow, as the Department will host the third event in October next year. It will also be expanded to include more details and illustrations to ensure that all aspects of the culture are covered, Mbenzi added.