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Michael Paskevicius


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The tour through Katatura was very well done by the ‘Face to Face Katatura’ tour group. I would highly recommend this tour to any visitor of Namibia.

When Katatura was planned it seems that all of the ethnic groups were given separate blocks with which to live. As we went through the city we were shown the various sections of houses. Some of the houses were indicated as belonging to a certain group with a D for Damara, or an N for Nama. It’s so crazy for me to imagine this actually being enforced upon people. Nowadays, people are much more relaxed about who lives where, but the segregation is still somewhat evident.

We traveled to an open air market and saw some local handicrafts. Today, elementary school reopened so many of the children were at the market getting new clothes.

At the far end of the market was a ‘delicatessen’ and various hunks of cattle were lying about. As in most developing countries this deli would not get a pass for hygiene. The meat lay on cardboard and was hacked at with rusty blades. It was quite a scene. Just beyond the deli was a line of barbeques grilling the meat for a quick lunch. Our guide tells us that meat is a staple for the Namibians and they eat it all day long. Meat is also a popular snack sold as Biltong, which is basically like beef jerky but most often made with wild game.

I believe that the stat given was that more than half of the population of Windhoek live in Katatura. Although, it was initially named ‘the place we don’t want to settle’, many have made it their permanent home. My neighbors often go to Katatura for ‘fun’ because they say that Windhoek West is ‘lame’. You can definitely feel the energy in Katatura. The community has developed quite a bit in some areas and in many ways it operates as an independent village although it is so close to Windhoek.

The ‘informal village’ is on the outskirts of Katatura and its inhabitants are those without money to buy land or shelter. They call it informal because basically anything available is used to build shelter. Water supplies are available centrally and bathrooms are improvised. The city, having taken note of this, built public outhouses within this informal area to prevent disease. Can you believe they charge $800RAND a month per person for usage? That is over $150CAN!!! These public washrooms are basically untouched. After all, if you can’t afford a house, can you afford a bathroom?

Going through the residential areas the thing I noticed most were the children. Children are everywhere. It is not uncommon to see 6–10 children gathered around one grownup that is most likely not even a parent. It is not uncommon to see very young children by themselves. It is so disheartening to see these communities and know that these children may never know of a better life. I had lunch with a couple of volunteers from the US the other day and they invited one special student to join us. It was only her second time in the city of Windhoek and her first time out for lunch as such. She was so cute; she was amazed at the service and the atmosphere. She couldn’t figure out why these strange people were bringing us food! Is it free?, she asks. Anyhow, she out ate us all by ordering one of the largest items on the menu!

We rounded out our tour with a stop at a Sha’Bin, which is basically a small local bar. It also had a hair salon built in. Even midday there were many people on the streets and quite a surprising amount in the bar itself. Alcoholism is quite prevalent among the unemployed in Katatura. This also leads to other problems in the community and in the home.

That’s Katatura, a world away from what I know and currently experience while living in Windhoek West.

Katatura: “the place we don’t want to live”
Photos from Katatura

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