Owela still popular at the coast

• By Michael Uugwanga

Owela is not a sport that has gained country wide popularity like football, boxing or athletics nor has it been dignified with as a sport code but it is popular amongst the residents of Walvis Bay, Grootfontein, Tsumeb and Swakopmund.

Owela is an African traditional chess that is played in almost every African country.
The notably Namibian tribe that is still actively promoting the sport of Owela is the Aawambo people who continue to play the sport on a daily basis.

Owela is a traditional Namibian sport that comes along way, although not only played by Oshiwambo speaking people, but also by other Namibian tribes such as Kavangos, Ovahereros and some Drama/Nama communities.

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Men would be squatting in a circle around the home-made game which some women have learned to play as well today.

Owela which is in Oshiwambo language, it also has another name in other local languages such as in Otjiherero it is called Onjune while in Damara is //hus and in Rukwangali is Wera but it is the Oshiwambo speaking people who continues to play the sport because the rest of other tribes seems to have lost the interest in the sport.
Walvis Bay which is the current home of Owela league that was introduced some few years ago is played every day.

The past weekend, Confidente visited the site in Walvis Bay at the old single-quarters and find men in particular those above 50 playing the game.

Owela is one of the most affordable sport because it is played on the ground or on a congregated surface that consists of 20 holes.

Owela was introduced by Oshiwambo-speaking people during the Germans and South African colonial regimes as contract labours.

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In 2020, Owela received a financial injection from a local businessman from Walvis Bay to a reported amount of N$10 000, which was contested by Owela players from Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Hentiesbaai

One long serving and popular Owela player, Bernado ‘Kandjivali’ William who call himself the chief commander of the sport said that they need assistance from the corporate world in order for the sport to grow.

“We are playing Owela not for money but for fun. The reason why you hardly find young people here is because they are always at work.

I am the champion of Owela here that is why they call me chief commander,” said William.

Cornelius Alwendo said that Owela is a good sport for those that want to learn mathematics.

He said he has been staying in Walvis Bay with his parents since they moved to the town many years ago.

“My parents have been staying here in Walvis Bay for many years and they have also been playing Owela.

  Young people do also come but they prefer to play when there is money on the table that is why at times you find people putting little money together.  We want the Walvis Bay municipality to put up lights because some people come from work late, which makes it difficult for us to play until sunset. We use our torch phones for light. We also need a shade especially during weekends when it is too sunny,” said Alwendo.