Written by Christiana de roo
As a traveller, you meet a lot of interesting characters. Some of them might even change your perspective, open your eyes to things you might have never even considered. By sharing their stories, we hope to create a form of understanding. To finally realize that fundamentally, we’re all the same.
Give it a chance
The East wind brought the East weather to Walvis Bay. It’s an infamous phenomena, with boiling heat and sometimes scary desert storms that gives the sky a yellow gloom. Today it’s the heat that shimmers over the Atlantic ocean water. The breeze is nice and warm.
After a day of guiding a group of Germans, Nessy feels he deserves a cold beer. He’s been a freelance tour guide for fifteen years now. The name he gave his business, sums up Nessy’s wish for tourism in his country. Omito Travel – Give it a chance.
Nessy is an Ovambo, the most dominant tribe in Namibia. His original name is Onesmus Shimwafeni. Back in the seventies, shortly after Nessy was born, Namibia wasn’t called Namibia. It was still a part of South Africa, and called South West Afrika. With the Apartheid regime ruling, black people had a lot of disadvantages. The party that advocated independence for Namibia, SWAPO, had sent their forces to the border with Angola where they battled the Apartheid regime for many years. Angola had just won their independence, in 1976, and offered SWAPO bases at the Angola-Namibia border to launch attacks against the South African military. In the early eighties, with the racist Apartheid regime ruling and independence not yet at the horizon, Nessy, amongst many other Namibian children, was sent into exile to a land of more opportunity: the German Democratic Republic. Together with somewhat 450 other children, Nessy was raised in Europe.
Namibia gained its independence in 1990; reason for most refugees to return to their homes, including Nessy. He always felt the difference between himself and his peers who stayed in Namibia. His experiences in Germany had altered him. Living life as an exile has shaped his life until this day.
The tour guide
In 2010, a unique opportunity crossed Nessy’s path. He had applied for the World Expo, this time held in Shanghai.
“I was in Etosha, watching lions with some friends, when I got the call. At first I was annoyed, as silence is crucial when it comes to wildlife. But as soon as I realized it was the World Expo committee that had called me, I was filled with happiness.” Nessy was given the chance to partake in the World Expo, as a representative of the tourism sector in Namibia. “It was such an amazing experience, with people from all different parts of the world coming together. I had arranged for traditional Namibian musicians to be flown into Shanghai. Together with Chinese harpists, they entertained the attendees, whilst everybody enjoyed the traditional ‘Braai’ dinner.” With a glaze in his eyes, thinking about the wonderful eight months he had in Shanghai, he adds that ‘to learn from each other, that’s what it’s all about!’
Not only is Nessy a passionate tour guide, he’s also a poet and writer. Some of his poetry has been read on various events ranging from Shanghai to New York. He also proudly speaks about his film debut. The short story ‘100 bucks’ is based on his concept. As can be read in Writing Namibia: literature in transition ‘100 bucks is a short film, written and directed by Oshosheni Hiveluah, and based on a story by Onesmus Shimwafeni. Following the journey of a 100-dollar note which passes through the hands of Windhoek residents, the film highlights the daily struggles of the protagonists. Close to reality and experienced by mainly urban Namibians the film portrays social evils and phenomena such as urban poverty, unemployment, the divide between rich and poor and gender-based violence.’
After this relatively successful production, Nessy is once again part of a film production. A production that’s much bigger than the 100 bucks short film. Together with his partner he’s now applied to the Namibia film commission for film funding. They’re making a documentary called ‘innocent bloods’. About the Gender-based abuse and killings of women in Namibia .
Nessy’s eager to learn hasn’t stopped. This year, he and his Latvian wife Leila will be leaving Namibia for Europe.
“Not because of the cliche of an African seeking for opportunities overseas, but just to broaden our horizons. There’s so much to gain from travelling, and I want to meet people that can open my eyes to new perspectives, that I won’t be able to find if I stayed in my own little bubble. I live as an island. I feed my soul by appreciating that I’m alive. That’s what being a refugee has done for me.”