From 'One Namibia, One Nation' towards 'Unity in Diversity? Shifting representations of culture and nationhood in Namibian Independence Day celebrations, 1990-2010

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 10
  • Abstract:

    In 2010 Namibia celebrated its twentieth anniversary of independence from South African rule. The main celebrations in the country’s capital Windhoek became the stage for an impressively orchestrated demonstration of maturing nationhood, symbolically embracing postcolonial policy concepts such as ‘national reconciliation’, ‘unity’ and ‘diversity’. At the same time, nation building in post-apartheid Namibia is characterised by a high degree of social and political fragmentation that manifests itself in cultural and/or ethnic discourses of belonging. Taking the highly significant independence jubilee as our vantage point, we map out a shift of cultural representations of the nation in Independence Day celebrations since 1990, embodied by the two prominent slogans of ‘One Namibia, one Nation’ and ‘Unity in Diversity’. As we will argue, the difficult and at times highly fragile postcolonial disposition made it necessary for the SWAPO government, as primary nation builder, to accommodate the demands of regions and local communities in its policy frameworks. This negotiation of local identifications and national belonging in turn shaped, and continues to shape, the performative dimension of Independence Day celebrations in Namibia.