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Painting of watershed moment in Namibian history on auction

Avatar of inke inke - 13. December 2017 - Culture


On 14 December 2017, Namibia will take centre stage at the world-famous Christies Auction House in London. A painting by Thomas Baines, dating back to 1864 and capturing a turning point in pre-colonial Namibian history, will fall under the auctioneer’s hammer. The painting is expected to be sold for £200 000 to £300 000, equivalent to 3.6 to 5.6 million Namibian dollars.

It was painted after events in 1863 when the Ovaherero in Otjimbingwe had suffered an attack by their old adversaries, the Oorlam and Nama tribes, led by Christiaan Afrikaner. The Herero-Nama wars that had been gripping the country for years were about to end as the winds of change began to blow.

After the attack, and with 200 Nama and 60 Ovaherero casualties, including the Oorlam leader -Christiaan Afrikaner, the leadership of the Oorlam fell to Jan Jonker Afrikaner. With a new ‘kaptein’, the Nama and Oorlam were ready for vengeance.

In the Ovaherero camp, changes were also afoot. Charles Andersson - the Swedish explorer, hunter and trader; Frederick Green - the British, explorer, hunter and trader; as well as Chief Maherero and Chief Zeraua; came together in Otjimbingwe. They discussed the idea of one chief or king who could unite all the Ovaherero tribes under one cause. 

Chief Zeraua was elected but declined the position, saying that Maherero would be better suited. Chief Maherero thus became the Supreme Ovaherero Chief (a position which later became known as the Paramount Chief). Following his new appointment, Maherero and the other Ovaherero headmen and advisors appointed the Swede, Charles Andersson, as ‘regent and military commander of the Ovaherero nation for life’. 

Andersson immediately started assembling a military group. With the help of missionary Hugo Hahn, painter and explorer Thomas Baines, and Frederick Green, they assembled a highly skilled military commando. Aided with weapons and training, the Ovaherero gradually started to give the Oorlam and Nama tribes a fair fight.

Battles raged on and the scene was set for an immense battle. It was in that loaded atmosphere that Maherero called the Ovaherero nation together. Warriors from all over the country descended on Otjimbingwe. Andersson had taken command of more than 3000 fighters, who were ready for battle.   

Before leaving to pursue their old foe, Andersson addressed the warriors, calling on them to be ready for the fight. Missionary Hahn also took his turn, presenting them with a flag, which had been designed by Thomas Baines. With this new strength, drawn from speeches and a new flag under which to unite, they set off. 

On 15 June, Andersson and Green reached Rehoboth where they strengthened their alliance with Willem Swartbooi and his men in a church service and marched on to Oamites, Jan Jonker Afrikaner’s stronghold. On the morning of 22 June 1864, they attacked Jan Jonker’s army and in a decisive battle burned 22 ox-wagons, blew up 450kg of gunpowder and took another 450kg as booty. They also made off with a thousand head of cattle, which they took back to Otjimbingwe with them. 

For his service to the nation, the Ovaherero gave Andersson the area of Otjimbingwe, where he later settled. Maherero and Zeraua built their own stone houses alongside Andersson’s in Otjimbingwe, and the small trading outpost flourished. It would become the administrative capital of a young German colony twenty years later. 

This period was a turning point in Namibian history, with the battle signalling the end of Oorlam Afrikaner dominance in Namibia. The tables had turned and two very equal, opposing sides had emerged. 

The scene of Hugo Hahn addressing over 3000 Ovaherero warriors before the decisive battle, presenting them with their new flag and inspiring them to victory, was captured and painted by the famous artist Thomas Baines. In so doing he captured a watershed moment in Namibian history.

For more information on the auction of the 14th December 2017, click here.

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1 comments

Anderson

16. December 2017

Mr

More info please


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