Olufuko revisited : female initiation in contemporary Ombadja, Northern Namibia.
This thesis analyses post-independence Namibian Heritage and identity discourse and its contestations through the contemporary public performance of olufuko. Olufuko is the ritual of female initiation that marks the transition of young girls into adulthood. The initiation has been an important aspect of the Aawambo women's identity that live in north-central Namibia and southern Angola as it is believed to legitimise womanhood. I show how Owambo residents embrace regional or ethnic diversity through the performance of olufuko as a way of expressing their belonging. Throughout the thesis, I also reflect on the fact that through national attendance at, participation in, and performing of olufuko by state representatives and individuals, from all the regions of Namibia and beyond, people have expressed their belonging to a nation state. During olufuko ceremonies, both regional and national state representatives advocated the ideas of nation-building through 'unity in diversity', which emphasises the diversity of ethnic backgrounds while harmoniously coexisting. Following Becker (2004), and Becker and Lentz (2013), my central argument is that in the contemporary dispensation, national citizenship in Namibia appears to be defined largely through the emphasis on regional or ethnic diversity. In my discussion, I show how the state appropriated and mediated the olufuko ceremony as a national event, though it was performed at the regional level. I show how national identity was visibly represented by national symbols such as the national flag and anthem and how it was audibly live broadcasted by state television and radio during the event. This signified the event as national. The thesis further investigates how national heritage is discussed in post-colonial Namibia by looking into the controversies between the state and ELCIN religious leaders which emanated from the performance of olufuko. The thesis is based on ethnographic research, which was conducted between December 2012, during olufuko ceremonies that took place in villages in Ombadja, and August 2013, when it culminated in participant observation during the public olufuko ceremony at Outapi, Ombalantu.