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President Dr Hage Geingob's remarks at the Omagongo (Marula) Festival 2016. Ondonga Royal Palace, Onamungundo, Oshikoto Region

I am honoured to join you today, at the magnificent Ondonga Royal Palace, in the company of Omukwaniilwa Immanuel Kauluma Elifas, in order to celebrate the Omagongo Festival of 2016.

Over the years, this festival has entrenched itself as the prime event at which traditional authorities, political leaders, business people and the citizens of Northern Namibia and beyond can congregate in order to celebrate culture and tradition.

This year's event is made more special by the fact that the Omagongo Festival was officially inscribed onto the list of the World Intangible Cultural Heritages by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) last year and this marks the first year it is being celebrated as such.

I would like to underscore the importance of an event such as this one in the context of Nation Building. It is an example of people who have identified common customs and traditions that unite them rather than divide them, and have endeavored to celebrate these customs through the Omagongo Festival.

The Omagongo Festival provides children and youth to learn the tradition of making omagongo and in so doing, enable themselves to pass on this valuable knowledge to future generations. Many of us here today are living examples of what our cultures and traditions did for us when we were young. They helped us develop and mould our attitudes and characters to be productive, useful, and pursue progressive lives.

Culture is tightly connected with identity. Identity expressed through culture is a necessity for all human development. It creates the fundamental building blocks in our personality and in the ties that link us to communities and nation. Culture is embedded in both the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Art. 27) and in the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Art. 1 and 15).

Culture ensures unity during crisis, influences identity, debate and dialogue. It is important for nation building and for peace and reconciliation. In some cases it inspires change, in others stability.

Any event which has the power to bring together people from all walks of life under one roof is an event worth lauding. One pleasing aspect of this festival, is the fact that it is celebrated annually based on a rotational system amongst all the Traditional Authorities of the North. This ensures that none of our Traditional Leaders feel left out.

The Marula trees, from whose fruit Omagongo is made, are synonymous with the culture of the North. According to scholars, the distribution of these trees in this part of Namibia is influenced by the history of human settlement.

It is therefore safe to say that the Omagongo Festival will continue to be one of the stand out events of Namibia's cultural calendar and one of the mainstays of our nation's cultural heritage. In closing let me share with you this gem of a thought, coined by Paulo Coehlo, who said, "Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions."

As Namibians, let us embrace our cultures and the various traditions and customs that come along with them, with the purpose of understanding each other better. By understanding one another, we will overcome all challenges facing us both political and economic. Let us endeavour to understand each other and realize that we are all the same, facing similar problems and having similar questions. So let us hold hands through culture, to solve our problems and answer each other questions in the spirit of Harambee. I thank you.


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