Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Images of Herero Leaders: Kajata

This image comes from Elf Jahre Gouverneur in Deutsch-Südwestafrika, the memoirs of Theodor Gotthielf v. Leutwein, published in 1908. Although it is not possible to discern the faces of the riders, this is the only photograph I have been able to locate that includes Kajata, one of the principle leaders of the Herero people during the 1904 war with Germany. 

The photograph was taken in 1896 when Samuel Maharero (also identified in the image) and some of his followers allied with the Germans and rode against rival eastern Herero leader Nikodemus Kavikunua and his Ovambanderu allies under Kahimemua Nguvauva and the Khauas-Nama.  Hendrik Witbooi also lead a section that fought alongside the Germans in this campaign.

Kajata was a close ally of Samuel Maharero who gained power and chieftainship outside traditional inheritance structures.  Following the 1896 Mbanderu campaign, he gained lands at Otjihaenena along the ephemeral White Nossob river at the expense of the defeated eastern Herero leader Tjetjo Kandji.  He was even awarded a sword by the Germans in recognition of his bravery. 

Kajata was viewed as a favorite both of Samuel Maharero and of Governor Leutwein, who supported him when he brought charges in court against a notorious settler and debt collector Falkenhausen who had beaten up some of his people.  Some settlers complained that Leutwein was treating his native auxiliaries far better than they deserved, stating in one letter written during the Bondalswart campaign in November, 1903;

"The natives are valued above all else by the Governeur and the Berirkshauptmann.  These cannot do enough in keeping distinctions by the native riffraff.  Hendrick Witboy (sic) and his staff, Samuel Maharero, Kajata (a special favourite) are invited and showered with lavish gifts..."   [Quoted in Ritter-Peterson, H.G. I(1991) The Herrenvolk Mentality in German South West Africa 1884-1914. LDitt (History). Pretoria, University of South Africa: pg. 154]

During the German Herero war of 1904, Kajata was one of Samuel Maharero's most aggressive field commanders.  He survived the fighting at Waterberg, though I have not been able to determine his fate following the desperate flight through the Omaheke.  One of his daughters, Mukaahasera Kajata, for many years lead the women's section of the Otjiserandu or "Red Band", a paramilitary organization which parades every year at Okahanjda on Herero Day to commemorate the 1923 funeral of Samuel Maharero, honor the graves of their ancestors, and celebrate their resistance to colonialism and ultimate survival as a people.

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