NAMIBIA: Katutura (2015)

Memory and Movie

by Flynn Gray

Please watch the video before reading the crafter statement.  Thank you.

In 2018 I went to Namibia. I was only there for a few weeks, and I was there as a tourist.

Before arriving, I hadn’t known much about the country. I knew where it was located, and sometimes I could recall the name of the capital (Windhoek), but beyond that I had a lot of learning to do and experiences waiting to happen.

Never before in my life have I had the privilege of experiencing so much radical love, community, and intersectionality. In many of the cities and townships we went to, we were invited into homes and intimate markets where people with all types of bodies and lived experiences were valued members of the community. I tried dozens of fruits, vegetables, and meats that don’t grow and are hard to find in Minnesota and much of the rest of the US. I met members of the Himba and Herebo, two indigenous populations in Namibia, who talked to us about some of their cultural practices and shared their art with us.

As someone coming in from a foreign country and only spending a brief time in Namibia, I was able to experience so much joy, and beautiful cultures more often than I did back in my home country. It was truly one of the most incredible places I’ve been to, for every reason imaginable.

Which is why, upon watching Katutura, a film by Obed Elmuva and Florian Schott, I was surprised at the violent and decrepit depictions of Namibia. The film takes place in Katutura, a city right outside Windhoek, and one I went to while I was there. However, instead of showing the radical love that I saw, it showed a drug and crime ridden life filled with little to no hope for much of the population.

I was so confused, was everything I had experienced not accurate to Namibia? Was the movie correct in portraying violence as the norm in Namibia? Did my memories maybe alter how I viewed my time there? Was the movie exploiting the violence for entertainment value?

What was more real? My memories or the movie?

Through my own research I found an essay criticizing the film Katutura, called ‘Embodiments of Love on the Margins of Windhoek’s Cinematic Landscape’ by Mushaandja Nashilongweshipwe. Nashilongweshipwe explains that there is a significant lack of radicalism in Katutura and that marginalized populations are further marginalized by the inaccuracies portrayed in the film.

I employ text from Nashilongweshipwe’s essay and audio files of myself describing my experiences to contrast with the violence portrayed in the film. German music in the background is a nod to the violent German occupation of Namibia in much of the 19th century.

The final decision is left up to you: who is misrepresenting Katutura, me or the movie? Or can it be both?

Works Cited

  • AnyWayWell. “Run It.” 2019.
  • Forester, Mark. “Kogong.” 2017.
  • GZUZ. “Was Hast Du Gedacht.” 2018.
  • Mushaandja, Nashilongweshipwe. “Embodiments of Love on the Margins of Windhoek’s Cinematic Landscape.” Social Dynamics, vol. 47, no. 1, 2021.