As I am soon to head back to Namibia for a few days to meet up again with Berrie and hopefully visit some accused witches and witch doctors, I thought I would provide those who have followed my witchcraft posts and the making of the film, African Witchfinder, with a few updates. Super briefly, here are some developments:
Regarding Ndjinaa's family and care from the post, "Twenty Years in Chains: A Triumph of Compassion Over Cruelty" ..... A very cool development is that one of Ndjinaa's daughters, Vehatehako, is stepping up to be one of her primary caretakers. It's like Ndjinaa is finally coming home to her family. Berrie and Koos helped Vehatehako set up and become steward of a bank account into which Ndjinaa's pension checks will be directly deposited by the government to pay for expenses for Ndjinaa's care. Vehatehako had revealed that Kapika was taking all of Ndjinaa's pension money for himself. The daughter can then go into town and withdraw money to pay for food and other supplies. I absolutely love these two photos that Berrie sent along of Vehatehako sitting in the bank office while Berrie helped her open the account ... the juxtaposition of the traditional woman in her fabulous traditional dress, bare-chested and barefoot, sitting in the modern office "signing" documents. She doesn't know how to write, so she is providing her fingerprint as her signature. I love that people can straddle the modern and traditional worlds. Like, I really really love it.
An improvement for Ndjinaa's care is a new borehole that was drilled to provide her a constant source of water at her care "village" where she and Kaputa live.
Regarding Chief Petrus from the post, "Fear and Distrust: An Argument for Witchcraft as a Primary Economic Inhibitor in Africa" ..... The chief had a stroke in early 2017. He was taken to hospital and has made a fair recovery and is back home again. But this event got Berrie thinking about the causes of physical and emotional distress in the local population, and realized that (it seems particularly in the female population) there was a propensity toward obesity and high blood pressure. He purchased an electric blood pressure cuff at a pharmacy store and took it with him when next visiting the locals at Okahandja. He found that nearly everyone he put the cuff on had elevated blood pressure. Cloud Break Pictures ... whose are producing the documentary ... helped design a blood pressure app that can be used with the cuff to monitor blood pressure. Berrie also pionted out to them some of the items in their typical diets that can contribute to obesity and high blood pressure. It may seem like he is pointing out the obvious, but the people there do not have access to things like nutrition education.
Regarding Headman Coster from the post, "Witchcraft and Dementia in Namibia" .... Coster has proven himself the friend an ally that we trusted he would. He has pledged his continued support to try to procure land from the regional king to build a dementia village near Divundu. Berrie has continued to educate Coster about dementia and about the falsehoods of witchcraft. Coster traveled with Berrie to an African dementia conference in Nigeria. This was really eye-opening for Coster, I think, to see people all over the continent addressing this issue, to have Berrie's words confirmed to him and to understand the true scope of it.
Finally, for ADN itself, Berrie's nonprofit, Alzheimer's Dementia Namibia ..... the organization applied for and was enthusiastically granted membership in Alzheimer's Dementia International. This gives Berrie access to many more resources and also a new network of health professionals through whom to spread the word of the plight in Namibia.
As for the film, African Witchfinder, it has made it to the first-cut stage, which I recently had the opportunity to view. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to see this project come to fruition. It was such a crazy and serendipitous coming-together of people, none of whom had met one another until we were in Namibia. I felt that I needed to maintain a healthy skepticism, or perhaps, rather, a cautious optimism that it would work out, it was just such an unlikely situation, I felt I should not get my hopes up. But here we are. Not only are we here, but here with interest and kudos already rolling in to the first draft of the film, the final draft still to come. Cloud Break Pictures (solely responsible for producing the film) really stepped up to the plate on this, putting in their time and money and talents to make this happen. Both ADI and the Namibian government have screened the first draft and had their eyes opened to what is happening in tribal Namibia, and they are subsequently anxious to show it to wider audiences.
With this upcoming trip back to Namibia, it will also mark the first country I've visited more than twice (well except Mexico on annual family vacations). Not that I wouldn't love to go pretty much everywhere I've been again, because there is always more to see, but with my limited mortality, I feel more compelled to see a wider berth of the planet in my steadily decreasing time left on earth. I dunno, maybe I'm just a passport stamp collector, haha. Nah, I wouldn't consider it worth my time to step into a country just to get a stamp. Typically I would never spend less than a week in a given country, and ideally 2 to 4 weeks. Anyway, this will be my third time in Namibia.
Here is another pic Berrie sent to me of a river crossing he recently confronted on the way to Ndjinaa's village, Opuwa. Does it look as formidable as the day of our little adventure, "Should We Cross the River?"