Ombalantu Baobab Tree Heritage Centre: A Symbol of Security
There are so many Baobab Trees in Ombalantu but this one Omukwa waNakafingo Na Temba, as local people affectionately knowing it, has a very significant history. I would like to highlight a few key points about the tree.
The commanding age: Historical records in the community where it occur estimate its age to be 750 years. Scientific research has been taken two years ago and the age determined through carbon dating.
The size: We have seen big Baobab Trees in various countries in Africa and we have seen some which stand taller than the one at Outapi (Ombalantu) in the northern part of Namibia. However, the trunk of our tree is 8.1 meter wide and it is still growing.
The hollowed out chamber: On the side of the trunk, near the base of the stem of the Baobab Tree, you can find an opening leading into a hollowed out chamber. The space inside has a capacity to accommodate at least 40-60 people standing. People entering its chamber, looked around, lift up their eyes and wonder since it is strange to be in a room that is alive.
The Historical significance: After Ombalantu King Kamhaku kaHuhwa died, his subjects therefore remained without a King. People from neighbouring tribes took advantage of the situation and periodically attacked the Mbalantus, stealing their cattle and capturing their people as slaves. These were difficult years in the Ombalantu society. The invaders indeed referred to the Ombalantu people as Aakwanakatati which means “Kingless” people who only depend on their bows and arrows to defend themselves against other tribes.
The elders selected some of the big Baobab Trees and cut out chambers inside the main trunk which extended high up inside the trees. They made a neat entrance into each cavity which could be closed by a door. Women and children could be protected inside these chambers in times of invasion by other tribes. Men took positions high up inside the tree using ladders. They cut small holes through the wall of the upper trunk to allowed fresh air to enter the chamber and through which they might fire arrows from their bows. Wood and mud walls were also built around the trees to make them into natural fortresses. The village houses and kraals for their livestock were built around these legendary Baobab Trees. These strategic plans made the work of the adversaries very difficult, thus the Baobab Trees provided protection to the people of Ombalantu and mean that Baobab trees still have a special meaning for our community.
A post office Tree: Ombalantu Baobab Tree was later used as a Post Office. Individuals writing letters to relatives and friends would take their messages there, which would be collected from inside the Baobab Tree chamber.
A chapel: For a time after the advent of European missionaries, the Ombalantu Baobab Tree was used as a Chapel. The unique Baobab Tree was thus not just a tree: it was a refuge, it was a fortress, it was a sanctuary, it was a post office, it is part of our history, and it remains a reflection of the powers of the imagination.
Baobab Trees with similar features also played a remarkable role, particularly in safeguarding the Mbalantus during the tribal wars. Ones that are still identified and known by their individual names in the community include Mwanyangapo Baobab, Mukokotwa Baobab, Farm Baobab, Girls Baobab, Elungu Baobab, Shikwiya Baobab and Nyamukandi Baobab amongst others. All these Baobab Trees had refuge chambers carved into them, although some of these chambers have closed over time. However the Ombalantu Baobab Tree remains the most famous.
The Ombalantu Baobab Tree is located in the Town of Outapi in Omusati Region (Northern part of Namibia), along the Outapi-Tsandi road (M123) and is close the Oshakati-Ruacana road (C46).