The Time Traveler: Farewell for now

Hugh Ellis

How do you decide it’s time to move on?

For many people in relationships of various sorts, that can be an agonizing question. How long do you stay with the soon to be ex- who you might love, but who increasingly makes your life a misery?

Not my problem, I hasten to add, but most people in such a situation realize, sooner or later, that either a big change is necessary, or that it’s time to get out.

Like relationships, we have to move on from ideas and systems as well.

Two cases recently in Namibia’s courts – one involving police brutality case against a trans woman, another kids born through surrogacy to a homosexual couple – have shown how many Namibians need to move on from an outdated and limiting understanding about what concepts such as ‘family’, ‘gender’ and ‘sexuality’ mean.

The continued high levels of gender-based violence show how many of us Namibian men have failed to move on from limited understandings of ‘masculinity’. I long for future days when ‘manhood’ can be about care and concern, rather than power and control.

Many of us white Namibians need to move on from outdated ideas too – from the smug ‘rainbowism’ of the 1990s.

Yes, we’re all Namibians, but the sooner we acknowledge the ways we benefitted from the apartheid past, and our complicity in continued inequality, the better. We should take a cue from the German government’s, albeit reluctant, ownership of colonial crimes. Listen to our black neighbors, implement genuine and serious affirmative action, donate time and money and land to black-empowerment projects, be willing to share not only wealth but where necessary, poverty.

Namibia’s ruling class, politicians from whatever party, need to move on from the old politics of patronage, corruption and ‘his master’s voice’. This politics worked well in the 90s and early 2000s – let’s face it, the Avid Investment scandal caused barely a blip in Swapo’s support – but the reaction to ‘Fishrot’ shows that young people, now the majority of voters, will not tolerate graft and inefficiency any more.

As for me, it’s been a fantastic, enlightening three years as author of this column, The Time Traveler in the Windhoek Observer, but I regret I, too, have to move on.

I have learned so much by having to read the news assiduously and ‘take the pulse’ of the nation every single week.

Despite being a whole PhD holder, the discipline of having to write creatively and argue often-controversial points to those who I know may not share my way of thinking, has been an education and a unique challenge.

However, my work as an academic, and indeed in my other career as a poet, is taking up too much time for me to continue my column-writing.

Also, a column can quickly get stale. It’s important for public discourse that younger people with new perspectives get access to this space.

I will be back – occasionally. If there are insights from my academic research to share, I will always look to the Observer as my first port of call. If the Observer or any other Namibian media house invites contributions in what I consider my first languages – photo essays and poetry – I will, from time to time, be happy to oblige.

I hope that during the three years I have been writing for the Observer, I have contributed to the national process of moving on from outdated ideas, and in so doing, moving into a better and more inclusive future.

Hugh Ellis is a Namibian citizen and senior lecturer in journalism at the Namibia University of Science and Technology. The views he expresses here are personal views. Follow Hugh’s blog at or check out his Instagram feed: @ellis.hugh

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