Thursday, October 31, 2013

Simon Kooper (ǃGomxab), The Captain in the Striped Coat

Leuntant Weiss, flanked by Simon Kooper and Henrick Witbooi
 There are several images taken together of German and Nama leaders when they were still allies that include a man with a white mustache and a vertically striped coat.  He appears at left with a Leutnant Weiss and below with Karl Henning Conrad von. Burgsdorff, as well as in a third image previously posted here.  His name was Simon Kooper, and he was one of the greatest of the Nama leaders during their 1904-1908 war with the Germans in Southwest Africa.

Bezirksamtmann v. Burgsdorff with Hendrick Witbooi and Simon Kooper
Simon Koper or Kooper, whose Nama name is !Gomxab, was part of the Fransman or ǃKharakhoen Nama who emigrated to Southwest Africa in the mid-19th century from the Northern Cape region of South Africa.  Kooper assumed the leadership of this group in 1863.  The clan was closely allied at this time to the Oorlam at Windhoek under Jonker Afrikaner.  In 1889 Kooper's people formed their main settlement at Gochas t east of Mariental.

Longtime allies of Hendrick Witbooi, Simon Kooper's Nama fought against the Germans with the Witbooi in the 1890s, and joined with the Witboois once again in the war against the Germans in 1904-1908.  In the photographs,  Kooper wears the imperial armband of Germany's native auxiliaries, but was quick to side with the Witboois when they rose up in October, 1904.

Despite his advanced age, Simon Kooper proved a tenacious are resilient guerrilla leader.  Among his reported extraordinary accomplishments, he is said not only to have survived imprisonment on the notorious Shark Island, where there was a 90% death rate, but to have actually escaped from it and returned to the field.  Although this claim requires further substantiation, there is no doubt that he fought the Germans in numerous battles alongside both the Witboois and the forces of Jakob Morenga, and that he lead the very last Nama resistance group in the field well into 1908.  The Germans actually attached him in the Bechuanaland Protectorate where he had taken refuge, and he was ultimately given a pension by the British in 1909.  He died in 1913 and is buried near Kaartle pan in Botswana.  His grave is inscribed both in German and in Damara/Nama.

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