Between Pietistic Heritage and Olufuko Revival: Female Initiation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia

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    In August 2012 the Olufuko Festival was introduced in the town Outapi in northern Namibia. The aim with this festival was to exhibit Ovambo culture in various ways during a week-long festival. One of the central aspects of the Olufuko Festival was the old female initiation rite olufuko. Female initiation had never been in good books with missionary Christianity. It was criticized by the Finnish Lutheran missionaries in the late nineteenth century, it was forbidden in the Lutheran church regulations in 1924 and by the mid-twentieth century, when Christianity was firmly rooted among the Ovambo, female initiation had virtually disappeared from some areas whereas had been pushed into the periphery in other areas. The "new" Olufuko Festival in 2012 and 2013 received considerable coverage in national press, not least because of the high profile politicians supporting it. This Olufuko Festival was a success in terms of visibility for Outapi and the Omusati Region and in terms of number of participants attending. The first president of Namibia, Sam Nujoma, was the patron of the festival which among the visitors counted several dignitaries, including the president of the Republic of Namibia, Hifikepunye Pohamba. In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) the reaction to the Olufuko Festival was immediate and negative. This article will scrutinize ELCIN and its Finnish Missionary Society heritage through female initiation in Ovambo culture.

    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Pages (from-to)85–111
    JournalJournal of Theology for Southern Africa
    Issue number150
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Olufuko
    • Efundula
    • Ohango
    • Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia
    • ELCIN
    • Ovambo
    • Finnish Missionary Society
    • Missionary pietism

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