Together with a national flag and other symbols, every country has a national anthem. It serves as an expression of national identity and reflects the history, struggles and rich heritage of the country. Played at any festive occasion, from international sporting events to national holidays, anthems unify citizens as they rise as one to honour their country with its national song.
At independence, Namibia did not have a national anthem. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was provisionally adopted as an interim solution. Namibia was not alone in using the popular hymn, originally from South Africa, which had become a symbol of the liberation struggles against colonialism. Different versions were adopted by South Africa, and by Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe at independence. After a nationwide competition to compose a new national anthem, Zimbabwe parted with Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and introduced a new national anthem: Simudzai Mureza wedu WeZimbabwe.
As in Zimbabwe, a national competition was organised to find a uniquely Namibian national anthem. The competition in Namibia was won by Axali Doëseb, a composer and established musician. He had co-founded a popular political band of the 1970s, the Ugly Creatures. Doëseb said he travelled all over the country and spoke to Namibians from different backgrounds, asking each what they would like to hear in a national anthem and drawing inspiration from their answers when penning the song. As the winner of the competition Doëseb received a diplomatic passport and a monetary reward.
In 2014 Doëseb was honoured for his contribution to music with a lifetime achievement award at the Namibia Annual Music Awards. Apart from writing and composing the national anthem, he was also the first post-independence black conductor of the Namibian National Symphony Orchestra and he produced tracks for Namibian greats like Ras Sheehama, the late Jackson Kaujeua and Sharon Van Rooi. Furthermore, he chaired the committee that was tasked with composing the African Union anthem, and he served on the panel that composed the SADC Anthem.
In 2006 the late Hidipo Hamutenya created a stir when he claimed to have authored the lyrics to the national anthem on a plane to Cuba. At independence, Hamutenya was sworn in as Minister of Information and Broadcasting and his office was responsible for choosing a national anthem. As chairman of the National Symbols subcommittee, the process was supervised by him. Despite allegedly having penned the lyrics, he claimed to have voluntarily relinquished the writing credits as he did not want to arouse debate. Doëseb vigorously refuted the untimely claim and nothing further ever came from it.
The national anthem – Namibia, Land of the Brave – was first heard in public at the first independence anniversary on 21 March 1991. A fitting way to celebrate the first year of freedom, the bravery of those who stood up to oppression and the bright new future in the hands of each Namibian.