Last week the library hosted a two-day exhibit on Namibia for the law school community and families and friends of 2012 graduates. Below are some stories and photographs from the exhibit.
The law school’s International and Comparative Law Clinic just returned from its third year in Namibia and brought back a lot to share with the law school community including: indigenous art, jewelry, textile crafts, leatherwork, masks, and baskets that are typically woven by women and are part of a strong crafts tradition of the northern Namibian peoples – Caprivi, Himba, Herero, Kavango, and Ovambo. Also on display was modern art, including beaded animals, sculptures and a metal mask made by a freelance artist, Morris Sibanse, who uses salvaged scrap metal (usually old car parts and building debris) to realize his modern vision of the traditional ancestors’ mask. The largest of these cooperatives with which the Namibia Clinic has been working involves more than 600 women who together support more than 5000 people in their communities. The Namibia Clinic has been working with the cooperative and the Ministry of Trade and Chamber of Commerce to ensure that these talented crafters can gain full access to the world market through the use of supportive regional and international treaty programs intended to stimulate growth in Southern African economies.
Also on display, was some of the Clinic’s reports and work, including the Access to Justice Paralegal Manual, an innovative manual for human rights educators (“paralegals”) that was published in April and disseminated to volunteer paralegals throughout the country. For the past three years, the Clinic has worked alongside the Namibia Paralegal Association ("NPA"), a group of trained, community-based volunteers who provide services to community members free of charge. The NPA is the main, and frequently only, source of access to justice for Namibia's rural poor, its marginalized traditional authorities, and those persons who remain disempowered due to their political or social status (e.g., refugees, internally displaced persons, women in certain cultural settings). In 2010, the NPA and Clinic conducted a rudimentary needs assessment in ten of Namibia’s thirteen regions to evaluate current NPA operations, gather information on community attitudes regarding priorities and the types of assistance needed, and identify the resources needed to improve the provision of services. Among the greatest obstacles hindering the paralegals’ work was their inability to access information on changes in the law since their initial trainings took place in 2000. To help the NPA address this challenge, the NPA, Clinic and New Perimeter, DLA Piper’s Global Pro Bono Initiative, worked together to produce an Access to Justice Paralegal Manual which will significantly enhance access to information, education, and legal services across the country. In the Spring of 2011, New Perimeter and the Clinic traveled to five regions in Namibia to meet with paralegals and enable them to provide feedback directly on the revised draft manual. Paralegals from across the country traveled to Windhoek to attend a meeting on April 12-14, 2012, when the new manual was launched and disseminated in over 400 printed copies. New Perimeter, as well as legal scholars and practitioners in Namibia, conducted trainings with the NPA on the role of paralegals, key skills for paralegals, and some of the substantive law areas covered in the manual, including domestic-based violence, labor and employment law, HIV/AIDS law, access to social grants, and constitutional law. Ombudsman John Walters delivered the keynote address. An article published on the event in the nation-wide newspaper, The Namibian, can be accessed at the link below:
For more information on the manual or to access it electronically, visit:
As well as being an accomplished mask-maker, Namibian artist Morris Sibanse also creates beaded animals. Like many bead artists in Namibia, Mr. Sibanse is the sole breadwinner within his household of 11 people. For fun, he volunteers his time to train younger artists to do beaded work. The Community Economic Development Project of the Clinic worked with two non-profit artist development and product design and marketing organizations, the Omba Arts Trust and Pambili/John Mugangejo Art Center, in an effort to develop a country-wide arts program that would create regional art development/trade centers around the country. The idea behind the centers is to decentralize the art industry so as to be able to provide more resources to women artists geographically dispersed around the country and also better facilitate the marketing and sale of local art, with a long term goal of getting the artwork on the world market.
Ritual and ceremonial masks are an essential feature of the traditional culture and art of the peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa. While the specific implications associated to ritual masks vary widely across different cultures, some traits are common to most African cultures: e.g., masks usually have a spiritual and religious meaning and are used in ritual dances and social and religious events. A special status is attributed to the artists who create masks and to those who wear them in ceremonies. In most cases, mask-making is an art that is passed on from father to son, along with the knowledge of the symbolic meanings conveyed by such masks.
In most traditional African cultures, the person who wears a ritual mask yields their identity to the spirit represented by the mask itself. This transformation of the mask wearer into a spirit usually relies on other practices, such as specific types of music and dance, or ritual costumes that contribute to the transformation. The wearer becomes a conduit, allowing for a dialogue between the community and the spirits, usually those of the dead or nature-related spirits. Animals are common subjects of African masks, and often represent the spirit of animals, so that the mask-wearer becomes a medium to speak to the animals themselves (e.g., to ask wild beasts to stay away from the village); in most cases, an animal is a symbol of specific virtues.
The Himba tribe of northern Namibia wears heavy adornments created with copper, brass, beads, cowry shells, and leather. Of all of Namibia’s ethnic groups, the Himba are probably the most photographed. Himba women adorn their skin and hair with deep-red ochre powder mixed with fat for protection against insects and the sun, and for cleanliness because access to water for washing is an extreme rarity.
The Clinic is proud to have worked alongside the Namibia Paralegal Association (“NPA”), a group of trained, community-based volunteers who provide services to community members free of charge. The NPA is the main and sometimes only source of access to justice for Namibia’s rural poor, its marginalized traditional authorities, and those persons who remain disenfranchised due to their political or social status (e.g., refugees, internally displaced persons, women in certain cultural settings). In 2010, the NPA and Clinic conducted a rudimentary needs assessment in ten of Namibia’s thirteen regions to evaluate current NPA operations, gather information on community attitudes regarding priorities and the types of assistance needed, and identify the resources needed to improve the provision of services. Among the greatest obstacles hindering the paralegals’ work was their inability to access information on changes in the law since their initial trainings took place in 2000. To help the NPA address this challenge, the Clinic and DLA Piper’s New Perimeter Pro Bono Program worked together to write an Access to Justice Paralegal Manual, which was published in April and disseminated throughout the country.
The Clinic has worked alongside the premiere public interest law firm in country, the Legal Assistance Centre (“LAC”). The LAC works to protect the human rights of all Namibians through litigation, information and advice, education and training, research, law reform and advocacy. The Clinic has worked with LAC on co-authoring a number of publications, including: Withdrawn: Why Complainants Withdraw Rape Cases in Namibia; Not Coming Up Dry: Regulating the Use of Namibia’s Scare Water Resources by Mining Operations; and Striking a Better Balance: An Investigation of Mining Practices in Namibia’s Protected Areas.