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Katutura: The Colonial History Behind Windhoek’s Largest Settlement | Mimi Mwiya

That’s the name of what is arguably Windhoek’s largest settlement, although I think calling it a settlement is not doing it much justice. ‘The Tura’, as it’s affectionately known amongst locals, could too easily be a town on its own.

‘Katutura’ is Herero (one of Namibia’s local languages) for ‘we do not want to live here’/ ‘we do not belong here’. So named because it is a place where Windhoek’s black population was forcibly moved to, by the colonizers, in 1961.

Some people would say Katutura is where the poor people of Windhoek are, that could also be argued, because like I said, Katutura could be a town on its own. When the black people were moved there, there were those who could afford little more than to live in shacks, and there were those who could afford to buy or rent houses.

When my mother was in labour with me, she had to come from The Tura, but, as far as I know, a good part of The Tura- Wanaheda, where my Uncle Mike had his house. Till this day, I consider Wanaheda the capital of The Tura, it’s where the not destitute black people settled.

Other people will tell you Katutura is the unsafest part of Windhoek, this may or may not be true. What is true is, it’s the most populous part of the city, so perhaps it would make sense that the most criminals would be there.

Photo: Namibia Tourism

We do not belong here. We will not stay here. We do not want to stay here. And yet we stayed, we belonged, we made The Tura our own. I use the term ‘we’ loosely because while, at different stages of my life, I’ve lived in different parts of The Tura (okay, just two, but I’ve been exposed to more), I know some real Tura kids, and I’m not one of them.

But I have the heart of a Tura kid, trust me. In an interview with Eritrean-American researcher and visual storyteller Helen Gebregiorgis, my friend Romeo says Nigerians are resilient and tenacious people who can adapt to any environment. Something I completely agree with, but something I think is true, not just for Nigerians, but for Africans, and for human beings in general.

Human beings are built to adapt.

And so ‘we’ were put in this place we did not want to be, this place we felt we did not belong, and ‘we’ stayed, ‘we’ thrived, ‘we’ made it our own. Because more than anyone else, that’s what black people can do: adapt and thrive.

Windhoek’s poor are still found in Katutura, but you will also find some of its biggest shops and activities there, because by virtue of being where the black people were moved to, it is where the masses are. Where the masses took all the resources of the place they didn’t belong, and created a new dawn.


Featured Image rights to Nela Shikemeni

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Mimi Mwiya

Mimi Mwiya

Munukayumbwa (Mimi) Mwiya is a floater who sometimes sits still enough to write.

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Katutura: The Colonial History Behind Windhoek’s Largest Settlement | Mimi Mwiya

by Mimi Mwiya time to read: 2 min