A visual journey by Dutch photographer Pieter Boersma

Nowhere in Africa has a colonial occupation left more footprints than in Namiba. While the German occupying power only lasted three decades (1884 – 1915), the country is still full of sites that commemorate a gruesome history. After reading a detailed reconstruction of the genocide of that horrendous era, Dutch photographer Pieter Boersma visited many places of destruction … and celebration.

The genocide of the Namibian Herero and Nama people represents one of the darkest chapters in European colonial history. After German general Lothar von Trotta signed his notorious Vernichtungsbefehl (extermination order) in 1905, approximately 65.000 men, women and children were killed. Due to immense resistance by the targeted people the 'operation' took almost four years.

This was the first genocide of the 20st century, seen by many historians as a morbid prelude to the even bigger drama of the extermination of six million Jews in World War II. The leading study of this part of Namibian history, by David Olusuga and Casper W. Erichsen, is therefore understandably called 'The Kaiser's Holocaust.'

The German government finally recognised this genocide in 2016 and announced that an apology would be extended to today’s Namibian people. So far, however, this has not happened. While representatives of the Herero and Nama people have laid claims for reparations for the damage done, the governments of Germany and Namibia have refused direct negotiations with them. US-based lawyers have recently taken the case to a New York court and consider it winnable, particularly because Germany has over the years also paid about US$ 40 billion to relatives of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Writer Conny Braam tells the story of Nama freedom fighter Hendrik Witbooi in her latest novel (in Dutch). More information here.

Also read this blog by Namibian filmmaker and writer John Katjavivi.

ZAM proudly presents his images here: