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Becker’s African Diary #21: Namibia

Swakopmund, Namibia, 09.08.2010

The Desert: The Natural, and the Intellectual One.

NAMIBIAOn my way home, taking some loops, sometimes travelling sideways, and just enjoying for the last time the serenity of deserted landscapes before heading back to busy Europe. I spent the last two days in the Namib desert, a radical and existential natural environment of golden-orange masses of sands, sometimes towering up into majestic dunes. There are no sounds. It is dry and hot.

I decided to check out the last “German” post-colonial outposts – Swakopmund and Walvis Bay – and it was unfortunately not the most pleasant experience (for the most part). It made me think a few times of a talk I had a couple of years ago with some intellectuals in Istanbul who complained heavily about the “exile bubble” of Turkish immigrants in Germany, conserving attitudes and traditions that were long gone in Turkey itself.

Here you get in touch with a concept of “Germany” that those of my generation loved to hate: a Germany of heavy, dark-brown furniture in monstrous sizes; of middle-aged women sporting granite hair-dos; of “Kaffeekrarnzchen” and “Eisbein” as the menu highlight of restaurants named “Zur alten Post”. This Germany still loves silky heavy bedspreads and kitsch poems about “Heimat” hanging on the walls.

Of course, if that was all it was, it could be funny. But it also comes with bookshops prominently displaying 600 pages of “scientific proof” that the genocide at the Herrero by German colonial forces at the beginning of the 20th Century never took place, that 9/11 was a mosaic stone in the attempt of a small group of wealthy Jews’ aim to take over the world, and it lovingly presents in shops World War 1 and 2 memorabilia, celebrating the heroic glories of the German army…

“Why should my son date a black girl? You wouldn’t go out with a Turkish girl in Berlin, would you?”

Aaaarggghhh…Excuse me Ma’am, but may I vomit on your shoes?

There are massive complaints here about the “racism” of the black Namibian government, which favours black applicants over white ones when it comes to government jobs as part of an “affirmative action” type of programme that is aiming to achieve equal representation in a shorter time frame. It is interesting to see that the Germanic population – indeed the white population in general – after profiting for centuries under colonialism, apartheid and forced labour, and always with the excuse ready – “what could we do, it was the law?” – have finally discovered their sensitivity and moral outrage when it comes to racism and human rights.

Can I go back to the desert please?

I am on my way in Windhoek, for the final days of the journey – Andreas

Picture: The wildlife of Africa has become attached to my bike…


Some ideas for a customer service approach I will be bringing back with me to the Circus…


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