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Enduring Suffering - The Cassinga Massacre of Namibian Exiles in 1978 and the Conflicts Between Survivors' Memories and Testimonies

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Title

Enduring Suffering - The Cassinga Massacre of Namibian Exiles in 1978 and the Conflicts Between Survivors' Memories and Testimonies

Description

"During the peak of apartheid, the South African Defence Force (SADF) killed close to a
thousand Namibian exiles at Cassinga in southern Angola. This happened on May 4 1978. In
recent years, Namibia commemorates this day, nationwide, in remembrance of those killed and
disappeared following the Cassinga attack. During each Cassinga anniversary, survivors are
modelled into „living testimonies‟ of the Cassinga massacre. Customarily, at every occasion
marking this event, a survivor is delegated to unpack, on behalf of other survivors, „memories of
Cassinga‟ so that the inexperienced audience understands what happened on that day. Besides
survivors‟ testimonies, edited video footage showing, among others, wrecks in the camp,
wounded victims laying in hospital beds, an open mass grave with dead bodies, SADF
paratroopers purportedly marching in Cassinga is also screened for the audience to witness the
agony of that day. Interestingly, the way such presentations are constructed draw challenging
questions. For example, how can the visual and oral presentations of the Cassinga violence
epitomize actual memories of the Cassinga massacre? How is it possible that such presentations
can generate a sense of remembrance against forgetfulness of those who did not experience that
traumatic event? When I interviewed a number of survivors (2007 - 2010), they saw no analogy
between testimony (visual or oral) and memory. They argued that memory unlike testimony is
personal (solid, inexplicable and indescribable). Memory is a “true picture” of experiencing the
Cassinga massacre and enduring pain and suffering over the years. In considering survivors‟
challenge to the visually and orally obscured realities of the Cassinga massacre, this study will
use a more lateral and alternative approach. This is a method of attempting to interrogate, among
other issues of this study, the understanding of Cassinga beyond the inexperienced economies of
this event production. The study also explores the different agencies, mainly political, that fuel
and exacerbate the victims‟ unending pathos. These invasive miseries are anchored, according to
survivors, in the “disrupted expectations” or forsaken human dignity of survivors and families of
the missing victims, especially following Namibia‟s independence in 1990."

Creator

Vilho Amukwaya Shigwedha

Publisher

University of the Western Cape

Date

2011

Contributor

Bernard C. Moore

Format

PDF

Language

English

Type

Dissertation

Files

Citation

Vilho Amukwaya Shigwedha, “Enduring Suffering - The Cassinga Massacre of Namibian Exiles in 1978 and the Conflicts Between Survivors' Memories and Testimonies,” Namibia Digital Repository, accessed June 19, 2018, http://namibia.leadr.msu.edu/items/show/239.

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