Tuesday, 16 May 2017



Art. # 189


Reiterdenkmal and surrounding

Photos and text by Stefan Rust

(In terms of the Geneva Convention the copyright of these texts belongs to Stefan Rust)

This article gives an opinion on the situation of the Reiterdenkmal and surrounding from a bird’s eye point of view because birds are the litmus of our environment. Our environment, even in the city of Windhoek, is not just ‘something’. It is the air around us that we breathe and the quality of life we enjoy because of peace. In other words, it is more important than politics, it reaches out to all our lives, beliefs and values.

Over a cup of coffee and a snack, Steve the young starling enjoys listening to his grandfather, when he tells him about the past, but this morning it was different. His grandfather says that life in this part of Windhoek wasn’t all that bad – at least not for starlings and some other birds. “In those days,” the grandfather says, “humans were helpful.

In the years 1910 until 1913 they built beautiful structures where starlings could find space to build their nests in. The humans call these buildings the Christuskirche and the Alte Feste.

They even created a large open green space, called lawn, where we starlings and many other birds and animals found plentiful of food.” “Wow, can you show me the lawn? Please, I want to fly there, I am hungry and want to find food there,” young Steve said. “That is a sad story, my grandson. The lawn with its abundant food doesn’t exist anymore.

In 2011 humans came from far away, from over the large big water, and destroyed the lawn and built this building what they call the Independence museum. Not only our source of food is gone but also the walls are built mostly out of glass, so we starlings as well as other birds don’t find holes in the walls to build our nests in. Definitely it is not an environment-friendly building.

After all, in appreciation of a bird-friendly Windhoek, we birds keep annoying pests such as insects, dangerous animals such as snakes and disease-bearing animals such as ticks and rats at bay.

The bigger our bird population becomes due of having enough nesting space, all the better we can protect the humans,” grandfather explains. “And once we got thirsty, we drank water in the pit,” grandfather continued. “Er, what is a pit?” young starling Steve asked. “A pit is a man-made hole in the ground filled with water,” his grandfather answered. “Oh yes, I know, there is one in the yard of the Alte Feste,” young Steve cried out, “but why don’t we drink there anymore?” Grandfather sighed. “The water is polluted these days because humans throw litter in there and I don’t know what else, it became harmful to us.” “Why do they throw the litter in the water?” asked Steve. “Well, I don’t know, there are bins for litter allover,” said his grandfather.

“But they could clean the water, plant some water plants in it and facilitate it with a rock for us to sit on so that we can drink. Other animals could benefit from that pond, like fish, frogs and colorful dragonflies.” “Now that’s what I call an environment-friendly idea,” praised grandfather the young starling.

“And then, also in 1912, the friendly humans did something else very special, they supplied us with a vantage point on the green area where we could perch right on top to rest and simultaneously keep an eye over the surrounding to detect our enemies in time to be able to escape and hide. For us starlings it was an important vantage point but they called it Reiterdenkmal. This 4.5 m high monument represented a cavalier and his horse, mounted on a 5 m high plinth. A German speaking artist, called Adolf Kürle, sculptured it out of bronze.”

There was also a plaque fitted on the side of the plinth with some for us animals uninteresting words on it.

Behind it was the home of a rock agama family and some humans traveled far distances to visit the Reiterdenkmal only to take pictures of these beautiful colored animals. When danger approached or bad weather occurred, they always rushed behind that plaque where they found shelter.” “But if it was that good to us animals, then why is the Reiterdenkmal not there anymore?” Steve wanted to know. Old grandfather said: “In a hush-hush operation some humans dismantled it from its plinth last Christmas, the 24th of December 2013, just before you were born, and put it in the yard of the Alte Feste.”

“Then let’s fly there and perch there so we can be on the lookout for our enemies, the kestrels,” Steve requested. “Oh no, careful young bird!” grandfather warned.

“The walls of the Alte Feste surrounding the yard are higher than the Reiterdenkmal currently is, we cannot see far enough to spot the fast flying falcon’s early enough in their attempt of catching us.

But let us quickly fly there so that I can show it to you.” A few wing beats later grandfather says: “Here we are! And have a close look; there is even evidence that I’m telling you the truth that we were using this sculpture as a vantage point. Do you see the whitewash on the face of the cavalier?” Steve gaped at it and asked “Can’t we ask the humans to put it back to where it was?” “You know,” grandfather replied, “there is something called politics with humans, and politics to many of them is often more important than birds and the environment.” Steve gulped and asked: “But aren’t humans dependable on the environment just like us birds?” Wise old grandfather said: “Steve, there is one thing you should know. The more the human become, the more reckless they get in regard with nature. If I can give you an advice, fly and try to find an area away from humans to make a living.” “Then fly along and we find a place together, please,” Steve begged. “I’m too old, I can’t fly such long distances anymore,” said grandfather starling. “You have to fly far and I’m not too sure if you will find any unoccupied space anymore.” Steve replied. “Then I rather move into the neighborhood, to the building called Tintenpalast.” Grandfather shook his head. “You can’t live there, there is no tree to roost during nighttime.” “Oh yes, there is the old tree with the large branch,” Steve contented.

Grandfather stared at him a while. “That old tree, possibly as old as the Tintenpalast, built in 1912, suffers a severe injury. The tree lost his branch; it’s not there anymore.

Remember the heavy downpour we had yesterday afternoon? That storm broke down the branch. In some parts of Windhoek it rained 65 mm in a short period of time.” “Oi, that’s a lot,” Steve said. “Yes, and such weather catastrophes are becoming more and more,” continued grandfather. “But why?” enquired Steve. Grandfather starling coughed a little and answered “That’s because humans destroy the environment, the fauna and the flora, resulting in a climate change and due to that the weather changes.” “Well, what can I as a bird do?” thought Steve and just said, “Ok”, becoming increasingly afraid of humans and the future.

Grandfather starling felt he needed to encourage young Steve and said “While seeking for a better habitat on your journey, you don’t need to leave Namibia, stay within this countries borders, because some experts hold the opinion that Namibia is one of the most environment-friendly countries in the world!”

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