A Land of Goshen

Landscape and Kingdom in Nineteenth Century Eastern Owambo (Namibia)
  • Patricia Hayes
Part of the Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation book series (STHE, volume 4)


The general appearance was that of the most abundant fertility. It was a land of Goshen to us. Galton, 1858, p. 195

The term ‘landscape’ is used in this chapter to denote land that is marked by historical and cultural layers of meaning which have accumulated over time. It explores the precolonial histories of eastern Ovambo kingdoms in the second half of the nineteenth century, and the interrelationship between historical accounts of royal succession and power with the local floodplain ecologies. The region attracted geographical explorers from 1850, notably Galton and Andersson, who brought radically different methodologies of viewing the land. The chapter examines travel narrative and oral tradition, cartography and oral history, each as a separate medium, but whose selective juxtaposition helps to expose their codes and practices. Whereas Ovambo marked trees and graves as powerful sites of hypomnesia, Galton and Andersson sought to erase autochtonous readings of landscape through an ominous discourse of blankness, propped up by empirical techniques, remote from both the human senses and local memory.


Nineteenth Century Male Circumcision Oral Tradition Headwater Region Royal Family 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia Hayes
    • 1
  1. 1.History DepartmentUniversity of the Western CapeBellvilleSouth Africa

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