Mûgorob - The writing on the wall for Apartheid? - News - Gondwana Collection

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Mûgorob - The writing on the wall for Apartheid?

Avatar of inke inke - 15. January 2016 - Discover Namibia

The Mûgorob after the collapse. Photo: Gondwana Collection

The massive sandstone pillar in southern Namibia that stood east of the B1 national road near Asab and pointed to the sky like a warning finger until 7 December 1988, was 12 m high, up to 4.5 m wide and weighed some 450 tons. What made the “Finger of God” (also known as Mukorob) so special, however, was its base. Just 3 m long and 1.5 m wide it was narrower than the mass of rock it supported! The mighty finger that had balanced for thousands of years on such a delicate foot was indeed a true wonder of nature.

The “Finger of God” inspired various legends. The Nama tale below explains the origin of the name and has been told in many different versions:

The Herero people had been at loggerheads with the Nama since time immemorial. One day a large group of Herero and their well-fed cattle came from the grazing areas in central Namibia to the Nama region in the arid south. “Look here, how rich we are, with our nice fat cattle,” they boasted. “And what have you got? Nothing but rocks!” they mocked. The quick-witted Nama, however, replied: “We have this very special rock. You may own as many head of cattle as you like. We are the lords of the country as long as this rock stands here.” This annoyed the Herero and they decided to topple the rock. They tied many thongs together to make a long rope, wound it around the rock and hitched up their cattle. But try as they might, they were not able to topple the rock. “Mû kho ro!” the Nama shouted. “There you see!”

In the Nama-Khoekhoegowab language the name of the rock is in fact “Mûgorob”, not Mukorob as it was inaccurately commonly known. The translation into “God’s Finger”, however, is incorrect. According to Khoekhoegowab expert Wilfried Haacke the accurate translation of Mûgorob is “(somebody) saw”.

Apparently local legend has it that Mûgorob was also seen as a symbol of supremacy, in this case “white supremacy” and that if Mûgorob collapsed, so would the system of Apartheid. It is not clear, however, whether this story was perhaps invented only after Mûgorob tumbled or even after independence in 1990.

However, it would seem that Herero and anti-apartheid activists were unlikely to have caused the collapse of Mûgorob. Geologists Roy Miller and Karl Heinz Hoffmann and geophysicist Louis Fernandez concluded in an essay published in 1990 that the collective causes of its collapse were rain, pressure exerted by the rock formation’s own weight and as the trigger, possibly the devastating earthquake in Armenia, the shock waves of which were registered at seismological stations in Namibia.

Mûgorob continues to fascinate. It was proclaimed a National Monument in 1955 and this status was not revoked after its collapse. According to monument expert Andreas Vogt the justification for the monument’s status may have been revised. The debris of Mûgorob illustrates that geological formations do not exist forever but are subjected to ongoing geological processes, however slow and imperceptible.

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