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The Village Master- The Art of Making Okaanda

By: Nghiinomenwa Erastus

In the current economic structure that almost and continues to wipe out indigenous knowledge, skills are acquired by going to high learning institutions- indigenously skills are passed on from one generation to another.

This is done through storytelling and observation with minimal participation- this is the same for Filipus Akanyome from Onambango, who makes/manufactures ugadhi/omaanda (mahangu storage).

The Oshiwambo-speaking uses Okaanda in central-northern Namibia and two Okavango Regions mahangu crop farmers to store their mahangu grain after harvesting and sometimes sorghum and beans when the harvest was good.

Okaanda does not only store the grain, but it preserves the grain until the next harvest.

The Villager Business Desk caught up with Akanyome through Vilo Kandume to narrate how the okaanda is made and where he acquired the skills.

According to Akanyome, the art and the skills of making omaanda were passed on to him from his father, who used to teach him.

He said it was a gradual process, as it took time for his father to teach him all the tricks and the unique techniques involved- this could include years of observation during an early boy-to-man stage.

Akanyome explained that the special techniques are not about making the okaanda itself but choosing the trees, the branches and how to prepare them.

Moreover, knowing when to use the sticks after cutting them off from a tree.

In many cases, if not all, materials for making Okaanda are mostly harvested from the Mopane tree, Omunaluko tree and a shrub named edimba (omadimba).

He also named other trees, such as Omupupwaheke and Omutopa, as some of the trees that supply sticks.

Akanyome explained that it is an honour knowing how to build omaanda given their importance in culture and livelihood as storage and a preserver of grain.

He considers okaanda an innovative idea from his ancestors because it takes almost 12 months before the next harvest of grain- with grain stored in okaanda only once or twice a month, it is safe from pests.

Since the manufacturing of okaanda requires sticks and other materials (traditional chords) called omifuva (in Oshikwanyama), which is also harvested from mopane, Akanyome was asked if the process does not lead to the finishing of trees, particularly the mopane.

He indicated that the sticks are carefully harvested and do not involve cutting down a whole tree.

Furthermore, the sticks required are special in terms of shape and maturity. As a result, they are sampled from various trees to avoid getting more from one specific tree.

In a way preserving the trees- Akanyome also narrated how he was reprimanded during his training for harvesting more sticks from one tree.

He indicated that trees were respected as they are linked to the amount of rain a specific place receives. As a result, they were always careful when they cut trees.

The marimbas are well distributed, and harvesting creates space for grass for animals as no animals eat them, given their smells.

Akanyome indicated that it is now hard to preserve and pass on his skills as now the demand for the importance of omaanda is not the same as now there are alternatives which can be bought in the formal market.

He indicated that few kids come through to observe the masterly work.

Akanyome highlighted that despite now the market creating alternative storage for the grain is of importance to preserve the traditional storage/okaanda to maintain the culture and valuables innovation of the indigenous community.

He said if one had a mahangu field, they needed to have okaanda for storage.

Akanyome indicated that the benefit of having okaanda as storage is that it lasts up to more than 10 years.

The mahangu stored there barely gets infested. The okaanda is a good field with mud.

According to Akanyome, the smell of the omahangu stored in okaanda is also splendid and differs from the modern containers.

He indicated that when he has everything ready, the special sticks and omifuva (traditional chords), it can only take him nine days to finish one okaanda.

One okaanda in monetary terms commands around between N$1800 and N$2000.

Akanyome indicated that he can still make it depending on the demand and the availability of the trees that can supply him with suitable material. Email:

Julia Heita

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