Friday, July 17, 2009

Caprivi Strip

With its scatted huts and sprawling rural population, the Caprivi is closer to the ideal most people have of Africa than any other part of Namibia. It consists of a complex network of perennial rivers, riverine forests and fertile floodplains, an usually flat area where no piece of land fertile floodplains, an usually flat area where no piece of land is more than 47 meters higher than the rest. The region is populated by over 80 000 people, most of whom are substance farmers making their living on the banks of the Zambezi, Kwando, Linyanti and Chobe rivers. In addition to fishing and hunting, they keep cattle and cultivate the land. When Chobe and Zambezi rivers come down in flood, over half of the land can become inundated with water. At this time of the year the Caprivians use their mekoro(dug-out canoes) to traverse the routes usually utilized by cars, trucks and pedestrians.

Seen on the map, the Caprivi appears to be a strange appendage rather than part of the country, extending eastwards as a panhandle into Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. It is a classic example of how colonial power shaped the boundaries of modern Africa. At the Berlin Conference in 1890, Germany acquired the strip of land to add to the then Germany South West Africa, naming it after the German Chancellor General Count Georg Leo von Caprivi.

The region centre is Katima Mulilo, which has become a busy tourist hub, as it is the gateway to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and the Chobe National Park in Botswana. The proximity of Caprivi to countries with active art and craft industries has had a positive influence on Caprivian artists and craft people, known for the strip of land sculptural beauty and symmetry of their pots and baskets.