Botswana / Namibia:
Cultural Sojourn

Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours


Dispatch 4 - Linyanti


Woven baskets at Katima Mulilo craft shop, NamibiaStatue of stylized musician, Katima Mulilo NamibiaThe Katima Mulilo craft center was closed when we arrived on Sunday.  Interested in not missing it completely, it was our first stop on Monday morning.  Woven baskets is one of its strong points.  There is also a fairly regular assortment of drums, carved hippos, giraffes, and human busts.  But then there were also a few high quality unique pieces.  A statue of a stylized musician was one of my favorites (right).

Woven baskets, Katima Mulilo craft shop, NamibiaI would have been most likely to buy a basket because they are light and easy to carry, but there were so many the choice was a bit overwhelming.

Buying baskets at the source, NamibiaIn contrast, we stopped later in the morning at a stand that looked like it should have soft drinks for sale.  They were out of soft drinks but the woman there was a basket weaver.  When we indicated some interested in the basket she hurried off to grab the inventory -- three baskets at the moment.  In short order two were sold, and had other members of our group been there we would have bought out the entire stock.

The architecture of the area still continued to distinguish itself. It would be legitimate to do a photo essay on the architecture alone. Along the way there were interesting larger buildings with multiple rooflines, clusters of buildings set nicely among the trees and the occasion of a palisade fence being trimmed.

The pattern for provisions is they are few and far between.  It seems that we are lucky to see a bottle shop or small tack shopRelaxing under a well accessorized tree, Namibia (both small grocery and dry goods shops) once every twenty kilometers.  And too often these were closed.  Maybe the active shops are located further off the road, but one would think that near the road would be the preferred location for such a business.  Sometimes the best place for a break was a well accessorized tree -- prized trees come with benches (right).

Get Lucky Store, Linyanti Namibia Play checkers, Get Lucky Store, Linyanti Namibia At the end of the day our gathering point was the Get Lucky Store. We were lucky! Dustrick and Helen, the owners, took great care of us, and an interesting assortment of other people gathered there as well, combining for great conversations, good fun and a generally interesting afternoon. We put our checkers ace against the local youth star and we got beat handily.  My favorite quote of the evening was from an older gentleman who kept repeating, "I am a Caprivian, not a Namibian."  Knowing that this was the basis of a recent secessionist movement and the gentleman was probably under the influence of something, I chose to avoid the opportunity to get involved in local politics and chose not to question him about any deeper meaning of his proclamation.  It is ironic that Caprivi is derived from the name of a Prussian / German general / politician (Georg Leo von Caprivi de Caprera de Montecuccoli, 1831-1899), and Namib at least has African origins (a Nama word meaning "vast", as in Namib desert.)

The highest concentration of housing in Linyanti is hardly concentrated and stretches along the road for several kilometers. A bicycle is a good form of transportation between locations along the road.  There is no hotel, guest house or lodge, no restaurant, no Internet and no gas station, but there is a safe drinking water system and 24/7 electricity.  The "center" of Linyanti is clearly the Get Lucky Store.

The place name Linyanti, itself, can create some confusion.  In addition to being a town, it is also used to designate the general area (Linyanti swamp), and historically it has been used as the name of several towns, including the current Sangwali in the 1800's.

Another day, and maybe another language: I believe I was told that the dominate ethnic group and language in Linyanti is Totela.  It at least is spoken somewhere in the area.  The conversation got distracted before I had a chance to straighten out the confusion and the language of Linyanti.


David Livingstone:
(Source Sangwali Museum)
David Livingstone was the first European missionary to come to the area.  At the time he was working with the London Missionary Society at Kolobeng, near Gaberone.  In June 1851 he and his friend, William Cottton Oswell traveled by ox wagon across the Makgadikgadi salt pans and the Mabebe Plains to make contact with Sebetoane, chief of the Makololo.  He brought his wife Mary and their three small children.  This was Livingstone’s third attempt to reach the Makololo.  At the time, Sebetoane had his headquarters at Sangwali, which was then known as Linyanti.
   In July 1851, soon after Livingstone’s arrival, Sebetoane died.  Livingstone returned to the Cape to Send Mary and the children to the UK and two years later, in May 1853 he returned with his drivers and bearers to try to find an outlet from the Zambezi to the sea.  He found Sekeletu had succeeded his father Sebetoane as chief of the Makololo.
   Making Linyanti (Sangwali) his base, in November 1853 Livingstone set out to explore for a river route to the west coast.  After a long and difficult journey he reached Loanda in Angola on 31 May 1854.  He found there were too many obstacles and failed to discover a suitable route.  He therefore returned to Linyanti and in September 1855 he set off for the east coast, following the Kafue and then the Zambezi rivers.  He promised Sekeletu he would be back with his wife to open a missionary station at Linyanti.

  David Livingstone (cont)

  It was at this time, on 16 November 1855, that Livingstone first saw the great falls called Mosi oa tunya, which he re-named Victoria Falls.  He arrived at Quelimane in Mozambique on 20 May 1856.  Returning to England, he declared that the river route from the Batoka plain could be used to carry goods to the east coast.
   In May 1858 Livinstone returned to the mouth of the Zambezi on the east coast with an expedition party, to carry out further exploration on behalf of the British government.  It was then that he found that the rapids where the Cahora Bassa dam now is near Tete were, in fact impassable and that there was no river route to the Makololo.  He decided to explore the rivers Rovuma and Shire in Malawi instead.
   In August 1860 Livingstone returned overland to Linyanti to bring his Makololo porters back, whom he had left at Tete way back in May 1856.  He found chief Sekeletu of the Makololo suffering from leprosy.  He left the Linyanti in September 1860 to return to the east coast and never visited this region again.
   Livingstone continued to explore central Africa.  He reached the shores of Lake Nyasa (now Lake Malawi) in 1859.  In July 1863 the British government recalled his expedition and he returned to England.  Two years later he came back to Africa, where he remained for the rest of his life.  He spent his last years trying to find the source of the Nile.  He died at Chief Chitambo’s village at Bangweulu on 1 May 1873.
   Livingstone opened up the heart of Africa and brought it to the attention of Europe.  He was considered one of the great explorers of his time.  He was a popular Victorian hero, but modern historians judge him more critically.   He failed as a husband and father.  He failed as a missionary.  He failed Chief Sechele and the Bakwena when he left Kolobeng and he failed to keep his promise to Sekeletu of the Makololo.  The Zambezi Expedition was a disaster.  Above all, he failed to support the Helmore/Price Expedition.  On the other hand, Livingstone’s greatest achievement was to open up Central Africa and to bring about an end to the slave trade in Africa.  He had seen first hand the terrible effects on individuals and on communities and brought it to the attention of the world.  Alas, he did not live to see its final abolishment in Africa by the end of the nineteenth century.


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