Day 2: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

We had a glorious trip on the tracks of the Kaiserbird, my newly released novel about the German period in Namibia. My intentions to blog about all the places we visited this week did not come to fruition because of lack of internet connectivity and an abundance of very welcome, wet weather causing us to be in “survival mode” most of the time.

Before I continue with the description of our pilgrimage I must first explain how I came to the title of the book.

Voorblad

The Afrikaans title “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland,” contains two almost archaic terms, Keiservoël and Namaland. Keiservoël is the word the Nama people use to describe the crimson-breasted shrike, Laniarius atrococcineus. It is a real word even listed in the dictionary by dr Anton Prinsloo, Annerlike Afrikaans. The colours of the crimson-breasted shrike closely resemble the colours of the old German flag, black, white and red. Even the old Germans of German South-West Africa talked about the Reichsvogel. Some still do. The direct translation of Keiservoël obviously is Kaiserbird, my own creation if you like.

Namaland is the term originally used to describe the south of Namibia, the home of the Nama people to this very day. I chose the Afrikaans title to imply the German influence on the country and its people. The subtlety of the Afrikaans word “oor” allowed me to do that but strangely the English over or across did not ring the right bells in my ear.

Then the word scourge crossed my mind. It also has at least two meanings, one being that of a curse and the other that of a whip, a lash or cat o’nine tails, as used by slavers. Unfortunately there is more than a grain of uncomfortable truth in the history of violent justice meted out to the Nama people more than a century ago. So “The Scourge of the Kaiserbird” was born. On the one hand it tells the story of the Nama war of 1904-1908 and on the other hand the trials and tribulations of a real person, Ernst Luchtenstein who arrived as a young immigrant to German South-West Africa in 1906, right in the midst of that war.

Tomorrow I will tell the story of our visit last week to Bethanien, or Bethanie

“The Scourge of the Kaiserbird,” originally published in Afrikaans as “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland,” will be available from all leading bookstores in Namibia, through Namibian Book Market, and in South Africa from Upper Case, formerly Graffiti, in Menlyn Maine. Copies can also be ordered from bestellings@kaiserbird.com

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