The team, consisting of researchers Prof Sarala Krishnamurthy, Dr Haileleul Woldemariam and Jeanne Hunter, travelled to the Omusati Region to conduct research into the endangered culture and language of the Ovambadja people.
According to Prof Krishnamurthy, the project leader, the launch was a tremendous success, as the Ovambadja leaders expressed great enthusiasm for the project and offered their generous support. The team, assisted by trained student data collectors, consequently visited various homesteads to collect data in the form of cultural expressions such as proverbs, folktales, songs, jokes, myths, riddles and superstitions from a number of elders. As wedding traditions were of particular interest, the team was fortunate to be invited to the wedding preparations of a member of the Hangala family.
The EU availed €250 000 (N$3.9m) for this project which will also enable similar research among the Ovahimba, San and Khoe-khoe communities in order to revitalise their languages and cultures. The three-year research project is aimed at collecting intangible cultural expressions of language and information about the wedding rituals of three culturally endangered groups. The team is also responsible for digitalising such cultural expressions, creating data for a repository, co-designing contemporary cultural products, raising cultural awareness, and advocating for the integration of the indigenous cultures under study in national policy documents and development plans.
Not only will the research team focus on making the various cultural products attractive to the target groups, they will also make them accessible to a wider target population and all other interested parties. Recently, the NUST community was treated to one of the first cultural products developed as a result of this research, in the form of a short skit portraying a Mbadja wedding. The play was showcased during the Cultural Festival, which was held at the beginning of the month.
At the end of the project, the team will organise a conference that will focus on disseminating the outcomes and lessons learnt.