Oniipa - TOY-finalist 2018

Oniipa - TOY-finalist 2018

Oniipa: Ovamboland in its original state

17 May 2018 | Tourism

Frank Steffen

Many visitors have a picture in mind, when looking forward to visiting place. In the case of Ovamboland, the typical picture that springs to mind are grazing cattle or millet fields on an open white sand-plain with a good spread of Makalani Palms (the “Real Fan Palm or lat. Hyphaene petersiana) interspersed with water-holding Dongas. A picture which remains with most people, once they have been to the area approaching Ondangwa and Oshakati as you approach the Cuvelai basin, which brings water from Angola to northern Namibia.

With the advent of bigger towns being developed in the centre of northern Namibia, you find that Oniipa is something special, sitting on the outer fringes of that central development and allowing the visitor a peak at the older, more traditional Ovamboland, yet getting ready to meet modern demands - a nice mix, which renders it to be one of a kind. It needs to be remembered that Oniipa lies but seven kilometres to the east of Ondangwa as the crow flies.

Oniipa is part of the Oshikoto region and a virtual melting-pot of history and opportunity. Since the first Finnish Missionaries arrived here more than 140 years ago in 1870, Oniipa played a central role in the development of the North. With the arrival of the first Finnish Missionaries, Oniipa became the settlement, where the first church building of the region was built and later the first hospital and nurses training college and other developments. A printing press started off here and Oniipa became the North’s window to the wider world, encouraging literacy in a region, which had stuck to its traditions until then. The press is still in operation today and publishes educational and religious reading material, novels and Braille books. It was here then, that the first Oshi-Ndonga Bible was published. This was just a few years after the Finnish Mission Society acquired land from the Ondonga king of the time, Shikongo shaKalulu in 1872.

The Nakambale Museum at the historic site of Olukonda was named after Rautanen, who was affectionately known as “Nakambale”, as his hat resembled an overturned straw basket. “Visitors can experience a truly unique glimpse back into time by visiting us here at Olukonda. You can see how this town came into being and you can use our church for a truly memorable wedding,” says Magdalena Iithula, curator of the Nakambale Museum.

A similar first in history was Dr Selma Rainio - the first Finnish woman to qualify as a medical doctor - who travelled to Namibia in 1911 as a missionary and established a hospital in Oniipa. She affectionately became known as “Gwanandjokwe” over the years, this referring to her squeaky-white clinic uniform. Thus the name of the clinic: Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital, in which vicinity the Onandjokwe Medical Museum gives an impression of what “modern medicine” entailed a 100 years ago. The first nursing school in Namibia was established here. So was the first teachers training college established here and Oniipa was also designated as the headquarters of the burgeoning Evangelical Lutheran Ovambo-Kavango Church (ELOK), which became the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) as from 1985.

Visitors have access to an authentic Finnish Sauna and cold pool at a nearly 100 years old B&B, enjoy a feast of local and western cuisine and plan their wedding in the old church.

In the meantime the small town is open to investment opportunities with the town’s Mayor, Mannetjies Kambonde, being business-minded, as well as eager and engaged, while the town’s Chief Executive Officer Junias Jakob focusses on infrastructural development as a means to attract further investment in line with the town’s strategic plan.

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