While there has been the odd suggestion about staging omafundula as a tourist attraction, (cf. Fairweather 2001:223) initiation ceremonies on the whole appear to have survived and enjoy a modest revival as living culture, not merely as heritage in performance. The 1996 TV programme showed pupils from a local primary school who attended the event in their school uniforms and took notes to ‘learn about culture’, and interviews with some initiates revealed that they perceived the ritual as meaningful in their sexual and reproductive lives. To these young rural Owambo women, initiation was obviously a defining cornerstone of their social and sexual identity.


The new public presence of efundula has shown that, despite the significant impact of Christianisation on Owambo culture and history, it would be wrong to assume that gender and sexual identities in present-day Owambo were solely determined by the dominant Christian discourse. This is so despite the apparently so over­whelming impact of Christianity. It has become clear rather that the Christian churches’ longtime opposition has transformed the ritual significantly, without, however, questioning the social institution of women’s initiation and its multiple meanings. The fact that there was, and to an extent still is, a pertinent silence among sections of Owambo society, may indicate that people accepted the pro­hibitive stance of the Christian churches discursively, without, however, relin­quishing the practice. In postcolonial Namibia an increasingly vibrant discourse has emerged on initiation as part of the reconstructed Owambo heritage.

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It appears that the new discursive prominence of efundula as a cultural practice has torn away the veil of colonial silence that prevailed during much of the colo­nial era and into the postcolonial era until a few years ago. The partial incorpora­tion of cultural spaces that define gender and sexual identities, into the emerging heritage industry is not without its own problems, though; more so as it seems thus far that it has not been complemented by a wide interest in exploring the so­cial implications of older cultural discourses on gender and sexualities. Some vo­cal Namibian feminist activists, however, have begun, in the process of reclaiming their ‘roots’, to question the hegemonic colonial assertions of a highly-patriarchal Owambo past. Despite the inherent limitations, the new visibility, and nascent au­dibility, of these cultural spaces does have significant repercussions. The concur­rence of silence and, ostensibly contradictory, public presence relates to past ten­sions of colonialism as well as current multiple identities in the postcolonial Na­mibian society.