Tate Kuru, a tree and a road – a story of courage and doing the right thing

Tate Kuru, a Tree and the road - Sketch

A little sketch I made to remember this awesome story

Some years ago I lived in Oshakati, a town in northern Namibia, which was/is a crazy mix between traditional Africa and urban shopping centers, absolute poverty and tremendous wealth, thousands of people and similar amounts of donkeys, goats and hungry dogs roaming the streets. Not really a pretty place, but interesting and alive.

The time there left a huge impression on me in many ways and left me with quite a few stories to tell. The memory of one story suddenly returned to me in vivid colours and stubbornly keeps sticking in my thoughts. I guess it is a good time to tell and share this story, as it is so inspiring. Here it goes:

One day we left Oshakati, driving north-west towards Ruacana with a friend. The surrounding area is pretty flat and the road at most places unimaginatively straight, except for one place. About 50km outside of Oshakati the straight road heads straight towards a gorgeous, huge tree. Shortly before the road meets the tree it makes a bend to the right and travels around it, just to take up its normal course shortly afterwards. I commented that I thought that was great of the engineers that they did not just chop down the tree in their way, but instead planned for the street to go around it. Our friend smiled and told us, that the engineers and road builders had no intention to do this, but planned to fell the tree. A ‘Tate Kuru’ (Ovambo for wise old man) – I assume from a nearby village – found out their plans and did not want this ancient, impressive tree to die to make place for the street. He pleaded with them, but the authorities were not interested and told him the tree has to go in the name of development.

The old man was not that easily impressed, so he went home, got his gun and sat under the tree, threatening to shoot anybody that tried to remove him or the tree. He sat there for a very long time, day and night, protecting the tree from the developers and nobody knew what to do with this stubborn and determined ‘Tate Kuru’. Eventually his perseverance of this one old chap won and amazingly the developers build the road around the tree. Unfortunately I do not know who this guy was… I would love to meet him and thank him.

I made a tiny little drawing to remind me of the responsibility and power we all have towards our environment.

The moral of the story?

If one old man can protect a tree from a tarred road and rich developers, so can you and me. We just need to remember what is really important and act accordingly. And remember this very special ‘Tate Kuru’ if you ever feel that you are all alone or not strong enough to make the world a better place.

You alone can make a difference, and if we join forces, we can make an even greater difference. And sometimes some bold actions and perseverance is needed.

IRust_Tree & road

Just to prove to you that this story is not made up, I have located the spot on Google satellite images and marked it for you. You can clearly see the road making a bend around the big dark tree.

If you want to know why this story is so important to me at the moment, read on:

I am really concerned about the future of our beautiful Namib Desert and coastal area around Swakopmund – just recently the Namibian Cabinet has agreed to sell 700 hectares of the Dorop National Park to a company who plans to build a huge industrial and chemical plant. Eventually they will need about 3000 hectares according to their plans, also all inside the recently established Dorop National Park. The same company (and some others) also has plans for marine phosphate mining along our coast and they have already acquired the respective EPLs (Exclusive Prospecting Licenses). In most parts of the world it is prohibited to mine marine phosphate which is highly radioactive and scientists do not know what impact the mining could have on the ecosystem and oceans. You can get much more detailed and scientific information about this on “The Earth Organization Namibia” blog.  

Have a look at some of the artworks which I have made for this cause here. And watch out for my exhibition in Swakopmund in December!

About a year ago a small group of concerned citizens has got together and are trying to spread information on this situation and the possible consequences and to protect our home from pollution and exploitation. They have formed several Facebook forums and they have also started a petition.

Please support this cause, by joining the Facebook groups, signing the petition and by getting informed and active in whatever way you can.

Link to the Petition: (just click on the links to be taken straight to the respective sites)


Facebook Pages:

Industrial Swakopmund?? What future do we want!

We Say NO to Gecko’s VIP Industrial zone near the Namib Coast

A good summary of some background information can be found at:

The Earth Organization Namibia” blog


Encourage your family, friends and contacts to send their e-mail addresses to the following e-mail address so that a comprehensive mailing list can be maintained and all those can be reached and kept informed about the environment of the Namibian coastline and its ocean:


13 thoughts on “Tate Kuru, a tree and a road – a story of courage and doing the right thing

  1. kleox

    for that reason ,we need environmental studies assessment before any project get approved in any area……local people need to be consulted how they feel and how the project will effect them…?

    1. Imke Rust Post author

      Yes, I agree with you, Kleox. But also local people need to take responsibility for their environment and raise their voices and take action to protect it. Sadly we often just think of our immediate comfort or gain and forget our responsability and future. 🙂 Great to see you are looking at my blog and commenting, my friend! You have been quiet.

  2. Pingback: Starting of by Looking Back | Imke Rust

  3. annabrinkmann

    Imke, i really like the idea of sitting at the tree, but hell –

    Yesterday i heard a story at the radiostation deutschlandradio, germany about some german folks fighting with their voices and a tree-camp near Cologne against a big german energy company (RWE).

    RWE plan to build a big power plant and will cut the last wood in the area.
    The activists spoke about the hard beginning when they were 3 people, now they are a lot and have a little camp, with solar panels and a plan for the wintertime – But the bad thing is, the journalist said, if the company will start to build and to occupy this area they had to go. What ever this means?

    After some hours the news on TV was the German Minister of Economic Affairs Rössler, liked the ideas of – A) Rewrite the existing law orders of nature protection, if it is necessary for business need, especially for electricity-trassses! B) The possibility of protest an claiming for the citizens should be restricted by law .

    What? .. Sometimes we should cut the wood of some chairs and use the lobbying for our business and plans!

    Info at:


    1. Imke Rust Post author

      Anna, thank you for sharing this, although it is really upsetting that things like this even happen in Germany, which I always thought was so much ahead in the world in the environmental issues. 😦

  4. elize van huyssteen

    Imks, vielen dank for being a weis(s)e meme who cares for her environment.Ich renne so viel herum und bin dir ganz dankbar wenn du mir mal zeigsts wie unsere Wueste bedroht wird. ich freue mich sehr uebr die ausstellung! melde mich bald wieder bei dir. x E

    1. Imke Rust Post author

      Danke, Elize. Vor allem hoffe ich auch zu zeigen was jeder von uns tuen kann um es zu stoppen! Freue mich wenn du dich meldest! Hugz i

  5. Ute

    Das ist eine wunderschöne Geschichte – und auch ein wunderschönes Bild. Man kann es auch andersrum lesen: der Baum, der den Mann behütet, der auf einer Schaukel im Schutze der Baumkrone sitzt, ,die sich wie eine Blüte über ihn neigt.

    1. Imke Rust Post author

      Ja, so ist es im Prinzip auch, denn der Baum, die Natur gibt uns Schutz, Nahrung, Schatten, Waerme, Baumaterial etc. oder auch ‘nur’ einen Ast zum Schaukeln. Deswegen ist es wichtig das wir bewusst und nachhaltig mit ihr umgehen und sie schuetzen.

  6. Jutta

    hello darling imke! i love love love that story!!! you are so right, sometimes all it takes is one person to take a stand. thanks for reminding us! hugs to you

    1. Imke Rust Post author

      Thanks Jutta, for your continued support. And yes, I think we all need reminding of that again and again, for the big and small things that need change in our life’s – it starts with us. Hugs to you too!!! xxx


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