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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Day 1: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

After two years of working on the translation of “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland,” with the aid of no less than six translators, the day hasDay1 dawned. I take pride today in announcing “The Scourge of the Kaiserbird,” my historical novel set in colonial German Southwest Africa, today Namibia.

I chose to make this announcement from //Khauxa!nas, long lost and ancient fortress city of the Namas, in one sense their spiritual home. //Khauxa!nas plays a significant role in the novel and in fact the story ends here.

The writing of the original Afrikaans “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland” took 9 years. I described the process and the story behind the story in my blog on www.kaiserbird.com  and I now intend to do the same for the English translation. I invite readers to visit the blog every day as I make my way for through the world of “The Scourge of the Kaiserbird,” the South of Namibia, where I am leading a group of enthusiasts on a week long journey to introduce and herald the publication of the book.

It was alleged by the late dr Klaus Dierks, Namibian scientist, politician and amateur historian, who wrote a masters thesis on this “Lost City” that //Khauxa!nas was lost for more than a century. (Dierks is buried at //Khauxa!nas.) During the Nama War which raged from 1904-1908 the Namas used it as a hiding place and safe launching site for their attacks on the German “Schutztruppe,” protecting troops. The Germans were never able to locate the place with its Nama soldiers. According to Dierks he “rediscovered” it in 1987. I recently found an ancient map, clearly indicating //Khauxa!nas. Perhaps Dierks never saw this map.

//Khauxa!nas is a large place consisting of ruins of houses, other buildings and a  perimeter wall stretching over several kilometers. It is situated on a hilltop with 360 degrees views and with the perennial Back River forming a deep and large pool down below the sandstone cliffs. The river provided the Namas with their greatest need – water. Here the Namas could see their approaching enemies from far away, but because of its unique locality it was never necessary for them to defend the city. The Namas would attack the Schutztruppe on their own terms, at other sites, away from //Khauxa!nas.

In the book I romanticised the fact that the Germans could not find it in many ways, the details of which I leave for the readers to discover.

Despite the wonderful and unique nature of //Khauxa!nas, situated in an unrept and beautiful environment, apart from Dierks’s headstone, there is nothing to indicate the significance and history of the site. It is my dream that the Namibian government, with the aid of Germany, will do something to celebrate //Khauxa!nas as a place of national and international interest, of special significance to the Nama nation who lost everything in the terrible war of 1904-1908.

“The Scourge of the Kaiserbird” 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