Engendered militancy in war time: An exploration of select female authored autobiographical writing in Namibia

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Africa was colonised and subjected to brutal colonial rule. Namibia, through South African rule was subjected to apartheid which was a localised form of colonialism tailored to oppress Africans. Namibia gained independence on 21 March 1990 after a long and costly war for freedom. Several African freedom icons have published their life narratives for different reasons, so did the three female authors whose texts are under study in this thesis. Existing studies on the Namibian female autobiography do not necessarily approach female life writing as an intertextual narrative. This study revealed that the intertextuality of the three texts places it in a favourable position to enforce or counteract historical documentation. The three autobiographies under study are: The Price of Freedom by Ellen Ndeshi Namhila (1997), Making a Difference by Libertina Inaaviposa Amathila (2012) and Taming my Elephant by Tshiwa Trudie Amulungu (2016). The three autobiographies do not only contribute to the Namibian literary archive on the liberation struggle, but narrate private as well as public spaces that are usually neglected in narratives of a gendered space such as war. The three texts enlighten women’s contribution to the liberation struggle, their experience in exile and integration into independent Namibia. It proofs that Namibia should integrate and value the experience and knowledge of all Namibians for a better Namibia. It also illuminates the central role of art in daily life. The trauma inflicted through apartheid manifests itself on all socio-cultural levels, therefore a wide approach that will expose the impact of trauma on all these levels and people’s response and their way of coping with trauma is necessary. This study proposes a complimentary approach of both western theories focussing on trauma as event and contemporary socio-cultural theories that regard trauma as a prolonged process to give insight into other knowledge systems in order to achieve plurality. Concepts of classical Greek theatre act as framework to enlighten how women overcomes fear and establish cultural nomos to push forward the spirit of freedom. A comparative approach between European and African literature reveals that Africans have their own concepts to enforce cultural lessons and through exploration of literature these concepts can be comprehended and applied universally. The female authored autobiography is an important tool to illuminate matters of identity in the newly liberated Namibia. It becomes a lens through which to explore racial, tribal, gender, and class relations. All three authors testify to the discrimination they have to deal with in Namibia after independence. Their personal experiences testify to how apartheid oppressed and divided Namibians at all levels. As educated, strong-willed women they are instrumental in breaking down biases to achieve plurality. v The positions that they occupy in an independent Namibia embodies the transformation that they fought for. Namhila qualified as in the field of Library and Information Science and held several influential positions in this field in independent Namibia. Amathila held several positions in the Namibian government, embodying dynamism and transfer, while Amulungu is active in achieving language plurality in Namibia. The authors thus become symbols of a liberated Namibia.


Thesis Presented in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of English and Applied Linguistics at the Namibia University of Science and Technology. Supervisor: Prof Sarala Krishnamurthy


Thesis - Namibia, Namibian female autobiography, Intertextual narrative, Liberation struggle


Cloete, M. W. (2019). Engendered militancy in war time: An exploration of select female authored autobiographical writing in Namibia. [Master's thesis, Namibia University of Science and Technology]. Ounongo Repository.