“The Pearl of Norway” called at Walvis Bay

The world’s oldest fully rigged tall ship, the Sørlandet, commonly known as the ‘Pearl of Norway’, arrived in Walvis Bay last Wednesday, 2 January. On board were the crew and 62 Grade 11 and 12 students, and their teachers. The ship was built in 1927 and is a sailing campus of the A+ World Academy, a mobile college that provides 10 months of rigorous academic teaching as well as fostering personal, social and cultural development in a global setting.

‘We develop leaders with grit while sailing the world’, boasts the college leaflet. It goes on to state:
‘All instruction happens at sea while moving from one destination to the next. Seven international teachers lead, guide and support our students around the clock to prepare them for the most elite universities.’
60% of the students come from Norway, with the remaining 40% coming from other countries, making a truly global student body.
The Sørlandet travelled from Kristiansand in Norway to Argentina, then across the Atlantic Ocean to South Africa, north to Walvis Bay. On its voy-ages from Argentina to Cape Town and on to Walvis Bay, the vessel was able to rely more than 60% on wind.
While in Walvis Bay, they ship was visited by officials from the city, recog-nising the twinning arrangement that exists between Walvis Bay and Kri-stiansand. Furthermore, Professor Peter H. Katjavivi, Speaker of the National Assembly, visited the ship of Friday, 4 January, and gave a presentation to the students and staff:
In what follows, the presentation which provided an interesting historic similarities shared by Namibia and Norway.
“As you might have gathered by now, Norway might be far away from this part of the world, but there have been connections between some Norwegian people and Walvis Bay and Namibia for a long time.
The name Walvis Bay, as you may already know, comes from the whales that were caught in the sea nearby. The Dutch started whaling around Walvis Bay 300 years ago, in 1720. Then from 1780 onwards they were joined by people from America, France and Norway, who also came to hunt whales.
From that time until the First World War, hundreds of thousands of whales were killed. They were mainly used for their oil and blubber (fat) and for meat. Fortunately, whales are now protected under international environ-mental agreements.
From the 1960s to 1990, a good number of Norwegians joined us in support of our struggle for the freedom and independence of Namibia. In the 1980s, the town of Elverum in Norway became an important centre for solidarity and support for our people’s struggle. Likewise, in Oslo the Norwegian Council for Southern Africa actively promoted the cause of freedom and indepen-dence in southern Africa. In more recent years, Walvis Bay has been twinned with Kristiansand.
As we will discover, Namibia and Norway share some similar historical experiences. Both countries were occupied by Germany, although at different periods in history.
The German colonial occupation of Namibia between 1884 and 1915 was brutal. Norway was later to experience similar brutalities at the hands of the Nazi occupation regime during the Second World War. Two years ago, in 2017, I visited the Centre for the Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities in Oslo, where I learned about what happened in Norway during the Nazi occupation, and the fate of the Jewish people, in particular.
In the cases of both Namibia and Norway, the people were active in opposing foreign occupation through resistance movements. Namibian resistance to German colonial occupation was brutally crushed through the genocide of the Herero and Nama communities, and I will talk more about this shortly.
The defeat of Germany in the First World War marked the end of German rule in Namibia, and South Africa became the occupying power until 1990. We also resisted South African rule, which was based on the apartheid system that oppressed black people. The resistance was led by SWAPO, which is now the governing party in independent Namibia. From the 1960s to 1990, the SWAPO leadership was based in exile, in other African countries. This is also similar to the Norwegian experience, where King Haakon and the government had to operate from outside Norway from June 1940.
Happily, both our nations succeeded in gaining their liberty and self-deter-mination.

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