restricted access The Merits and Predicaments of Opacity: Poetic Strategies of Evasion and Resistance

Opacity is an intrinsic characteristic of Otjiherero praise poetry: it simultaneously enables and complicates reception. This essay analyzes a piece of Herereo praise poetry (omutandu) that was created for the burial of the victims of the so-called "Windhoek Shooting" in 1959 and preserved until today by means of oral transmission. It explores the poetic response of the Herero community to the forced removal of Africans from the vicinity of Windhoek, their articulation of resistance against the aims of apartheid, and the expression of grief and dismay about the killing of several people at the escalation of violence in 1959. At that time, the performers expressed, in coded diction, their collective will not to move to the newly built township, Katutura. Today the poem projects a version of history that contradicts the reading of colonial history contained in the archival.