Namibia is a country with a rich culture that cherishes and preserves its values, history, and customs. People of Namibia speak over thirty languages with over a million native speakers of Ovambo. A group that speaks this language is Uukwaluudhi, one of the four which are still represented by royals.
Josia Shikongo Taapopi, king tatekulu (father), inhabits the Tsandi Royal Homestead along with his family. This homestead can be found 2 km past Tsandi village in the direction of Okahao, located in the Omusati region.
Shikongo is Uukwaluudhi’s twelfth king and interestingly, the only one who never had to win his throne. His own uncle, King Mwaala, had reigned in Uukwaluudhi for 50 years. It was he who had appointed the present king.
Up until 1978, the king Josia Shikongo Taapopi has resided in the traditional homestead with his family. Then, the modern homestead with brick buildings was built, and the royal family has moved. Still, their old home remained, and the king decided to allow visitors to come and explore the traditional establishment.
Royal Homestead Tour
Nacobta, Namibia’s Tourism Association, has helped with the tour guide training of several young Namibians. This community-based association has played an essential part in the creation of the guided tour of the Tsandi royal homestead.
The tours last approximately one and a half hours, and they start at the homestead’s big front yard. The reception of people visiting Uukwaluudhi takes place in this area.
Royal Homestead Structure
A palisade made out of balsam tree poles surrounds the homestead creating an imposing wooden barrier. There are 36 sections, and this same wooden fence is encircling them all.
Every one of the sections has a particular purpose, with paths connecting them all to create a labyrinth of passages. Originally, these pathways’ purpose was deterring wild animals and enemies.
At the main entrance in the palisade, the visitors will find a simple “Y” fork and a step created by a branch. Once you enter this traditional establishment, you will be able to take a look at the homestead’s many areas. These include various reception areas (ooshoto) where you can sit on one of the tree trunks surrounding a fire or a section for the kingdom’s boys with an accompanying storage hut. There are also areas for the king and the queen as well as senior and junior headmen. You may also visit the place where warriors would gather in preparation for cattle-raids or a battle.
There is a special section called “King’s Shade” with bird-plum trees that grow small sweet-tasting eembe fruit and salvadora (or mustard) bushes that let you take a respite from the sun. The royal family’s sleeping area has an alternative hut that is specially designed to allow air to circulate during hot nights. It guarantees a pleasant night thanks to the gaps in its wood.
The royal homestead also features a granary where you may find eshisha, large traditional baskets. There is a clinic too, as well as a section for milk which features a big calabash used to churn milk.
Another area you may visit is the kitchen where clay dishes serve to balance a cooker over a fire. One more section of the homestead that visitors might find interesting is the area for pounding. Here, you can see mortars embedded in the clay floor and hefty wooden pestles which locals use to pound the grain.
Greeting the King
The principal reception area has multiple purposes. Here, the royal couple would receive visitors but would also use it on special occasions. For example, the king and the queen would use this area when hosting the official start of the Marula season. This is one of the most important events for the people of Namibia. It is a celebration of the Marula tree’s natural cycle, and the people mark it with the cultural Omagongo festival.
When the royal homestead guests arrive at the reception area to meet the royal pair, there is an expected way of greeting. The tour guides should teach the visitors how to behave during this event, and anyone who wants to be polite should follow their instructions.
Guests show respect to the king by moving towards him on their knees and shaking hands. They do so by holding the right elbow with their left hand and saying, “tate kulu,” the respectful name that serves as a greeting. If the guest cannot kneel, the king will be pleased with a head nod and a handshake. The royalty expects a curtsy from women.
The visitors have reported back that the family is amiable, open, and insightful.
Additional Features of the Tour
When you find yourself walking through a labyrinth of huts and fences on the way back, you will be glad to have a guide with you. They bring the guests back to the “Y” shaped entrance and the reception area. Here, the kraal (cattle enclosure) is visible at the far end of the homestead, where beautiful sunflowers are growing beside the fence.
During the tour, visitors learn about the history and tradition of the royal family as well as their values and rituals. The groups of guests will get an opportunity to try some of Namibia’s traditional dishes and to witness exciting dance performances.
There is also a souvenir shop where visitors may buy craft and household items which Tsandi typically use.
Ultimately, the royal homestead provides an exceptional cultural experience that showcases the values and customs of Uukwaluudhi and its history. If you find yourself in this kingdom, be sure to visit this unique establishment.