Transcending the Genocide
Uazuvara Ewald Kapombo Katjivena
University of Namibia Press, February 2020
Jahorora Petronella Inaavinuise, who came to be known as Mama Penee, was a young girl of eleven when her parents were shot in cold blood before her during the 1904 – 1908 genocidal war in Namibia. Waved away from the scene by a German soldier, she realised that it was her destiny to live. Finding water and food for herself and learning to avoid danger, she spent several months in hiding in what was then central German South West Africa. Courageous and self-sufficient, she learned lessons in wisdom, calm, and what is truly important in life, lessons which she later imparted to her grandchildren in ways both ingenious, frustrating and challenging. Her extraordinary personal qualities and influence shine from this story, told by one of her grandsons with the insight and understanding gained over a lifetime of reflecting on his grandmother.
Also a gem of literature, this book is primarily an oral history, a family narrative preserving myth, stories and fundamental values to pass on to younger generations to guide them through life and help them make sense of the world. In the case of this Ovaherero family, the horror and trauma of the colonial war and genocide is balanced by Mama Penee’s memories of both good and evil on both sides, and her deep understanding and acceptance of human nature. Katjivena’s approach gives voice to previously silenced individuals and communities, and is especially valuable as a unique account of an Ovaherero woman’s witness to the genocide.