An Annotated Edition of the Khwe Correspondence between Ndo Tinene and Oswin Köhler 1979–1995

ISBN 978-3-89645-634-2

An Annotated Edition of the Khwe Correspondence between Ndo Tinene and Oswin Köhler 1979–1995

Translated by: Gertrud Boden. Edited by: Gertrud Boden. In collaboration with: Thaddeus Chedau, Rosna Xoe-tco Gumbo, Hendrik Mbangu. With a preface by: Rainer Voßen. With an introduction by: Gertrud Boden. Series edited by: Klaus Keuthmann, Rainer Voßen.

Series: VOKA Veröffentlichungen des Oswin-Köhler-Archivs Volume 4

3. quarter 2024
394 pp.
2 colour photos, numerous colour and b/w facsimile reproductions, Appendix: Timeline of Köhler’s field trips and letter dates, Map 1: Places in northeastern Namibia mentioned in the letters, Map 2: Köhler’s research camp at Dikundu, Genealogical chart: Family relations of Ndo and Köhler’s other collaborators, Personal names, Ethnonyms, Place names, Khwe words or word meanings not listed in Kilian-Hatz (2003)
Text language(s): English
Format: 170 x 240 mm
790 g
€ 49.80

The letters presented here comprise the entire correspondence between the German Africanist Oswin Köhler (1911–1996) and his Khwe field assistant Ndo Tinene (~1957–2009) from northeastern Namibia, as far as it exists in the academic legacy of Oswin Köhler in the Oswin Köhler Archive at the Institute of African Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt. Apart from the letters themselves, the information in this introduction and in the annotations to the letters is drawn from the two contemporary Khwe witnesses, Hendrik Mbangu and Xoe-tco Rosna Gumbo, as well as from research reports and other dossiers in the academic legacy of Oswin Köhler.

In her introduction, the editor, first, presents a few details about the two correspondents and the sources for this edition, as well as about the Khwe as a group of people and the settings in which Köhler’s research took place, in order to shed some light on the background to the letters. She then continues by describing the letters, their numbers and dates, the physical characteristics and letter writing etiquette, as well as recurrent or otherwise noteworthy contents, followed by some editorial notes. The appendix presents some additional documents as well as lists of the personal names, ethnonyms and place names mentioned in the letters.

The main part of this edition are the letters themselves. The editor has tried to put them in a chronological order, although many of them have no or only in-complete dates and their contents are sometimes unspecific to a degree that they could fit almost anywhere, as they contain only greetings, questions and remarks about the well-being of the correspondents and their relatives, and discuss details of recurrent topics such as the amount of rainfall as a precondition for crop growing or Köhler’s support for his collaborators. The letters were also not found in the same order as they are presented here in the archive. Instead, some were filed together with dossiers on Köhler’s field trips or with text manuscripts in Ndo’s handwriting. The majority, however, were found in a separate file, about which the file guide states: “[t]he letters and reports were scattered over at least 10 folders; they are therefore not in a chronological order and are only superficially bundled” (Strohmeyer 2011: 112). The archivists’ interest in chronology was, thus, not necessarily a concern shared by the correspondents.


Under these links you will find a memorial volume on the occasion of Oswin Köhler’s 100th birthday and further ethnographical and ethnohistorical descriptions of southwest African languages and cultures:

Accompanying material:


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