A plan by the Namibian government to change the name of a colonial town located in the country’s coastal region has stirred up tension among citizens who argue that a change of name might hurt business and tourism in the area. The government intends to change the name of Luderitz, a harbor town, to ǃNamiǂNûs, which means “embrace,” in an effort to break away from its dark colonial past and adopt names that reflect the local people and language.
Currently, the town is named after German tobacco merchant Adolf Luderitz who is alleged to have bought the town from a local chief during Germany’s colonial rule.
Difficult to Pronounce
Many residents in the town are having difficulty spelling the new name and some say it’s a tongue twister.
The name, ǃNamiǂNûs, comes from the local language Nama, and incorporates the click sounds commonly used by the Khoisan people of South Africa.
The click consonants require verbal gymnastics for those who aren’t native speakers of the language.
Locals say the name might not be recognized by computers and websites, which will reduce the number of tourist visits.
They also argue that the new name will adversely affect their businesses as most of the tourists coming to the town are German, and a change of the name might not be well-received by Germans who still live in Namibia.
Some residents have threatened to take legal action if the government pushes ahead with the name change, saying officials are merely trying to satisfy “sentimental values,” according to the Guardian.
Many residents also claim that they were not consulted about the change and are now calling for a referendum.
However, others believe those resisting the name change are trapped in the colonial mindset.
“There are people hell-bent on obliterating critical narratives in southern Africa. Most critical are those of the foundational people and on something as inconsequential as a name change. It boggles the mind that in this day and age, there are people who stand against that. It’s disgusting. It’s from the Stalin school of falsification, trying to wipe out the people of this region.” Zenzile Khoisan, secretary of Khoisan First Nation Indigenous Status, said.
Namibia was a German colony between 1883 and 1990. Soon after declaring Luderitz and a vast area along the Atlantic coast a German protectorate, troops were deployed as conflict with the locals flared up.
For many years, the local Namaqua tribe resisted German rule, albeit unsuccessfully. The colonialists grabbed land from the natives and forced them to work in their vast plantations, usually for very little or no pay.
In March 1990, the country gained its independence in a ceremony that was attended by many international representatives, including the then-UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar and the then-President of South Africa F W de Klerk.