Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Seebataillon on Kaiser Wilhelm Mt., Okahandja, Southwest Africa, January, 1904
I spent nearly four years in the 1990s in newly independent Namibia, where the painful legacy of South African apartheid and the German colonial rule that preceded it was clear to see. The process of decolonization continues today.  Just this year, several places in Namibia with colonial German associations were renamed with indigenous names.  Lüderitz became ǃNamiǂNûs, and the Caprivi Region is now known as Zambezi. 

          Once a symbol of imperial German might and power, the Reiterdenkmal statue, briefly placed in storage in 2009, was taken down once again in late 2013 from before the Alte Feste in Windhoek, with Namibia's President Pohamba stating that if the Germans want their horse and rider back they can take it to Germany.  Other colonial monuments are now actively being reconsidered and may eventually be delisted and taken down.  For now, the Kurt von Francois statue still presides over a section of Independence Avenue (once Kaiserstrasse) and in Swakopmund, the Marine Monument remains in place. 

         Monuments commemorate the values held by those who erected them, and as such are artifacts.  They are subsequently reinterpreted and come to have new meanings and impacts for succeeding generations.  Names matter, as does memory, though what we remember may be quite different from what is documented about the event itself.

        I raise these points at the outset of this blog because I do not mean to trivialize or be insensitive to the issues of culture and heritage and colonization and conquest that are still very real to Namibians today.  Recreating in miniature the colonial German forces of the Southwest Africa Schutztruppe and the Herero and Namaqua people who resisted them at the turn of the last century interests me for many reasons, but nostalgia for the 2nd Reich or indifference to the slaughter and starvation of between 60 and 80 thousand people are not among them.

  I decided to have tabletop adventures in German Southwest Africa because I have had a lifelong fascination with diorama and miniature, because I like a research challenge, because there are now excellent unpainted metal figures available from a number of makers to make a considerable force of appropriately dressed and accoutered European and African forces for this era, and because I know both the history of this period in Southwest Africa and the modern nation of Namibia.  If indeed there is an element of nostalgia motivating this venture, then it is nostalgia for a remarkable landscape and the people I once knew there, and for the child I was when I first fell in love with worlds in miniature, and dreamed of creating those of my own.

        This blog will track the progress of this project, from research to figure painting to (hopefully) the scenarios that take place on the sandveld and kopjies of the gaming table.  I invite you to join me, with open eyes and in the spirit in which I undertake this adventure.

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