Omudile muua ohapo; epangelo liua ohamba. Freely translated, this proverb of the Ovakwanyama of northern Namibia means: New leaves produce a good shade; the laws of a king are always as good as new. The proverb paints a picture of wisdom to express the dialectical relationship between continuity and change in customary law. Since royal orders are supposed not to change from one king to the next, they are always as good as new, reads the explanatory note to the proverb by the anthropologist Loeb, who recorded the proverb. Traditional authority is like a tree standing on its roots, rooted in the tradition created by the ancestors of the ruler and the community. These roots remain firm, stable and unchanged, not so the concrete manifestation of authority that changes and responds to changes of the environment. This makes that new leaves are produced by the rooted tree. The new leaves are new and old. They are old, because in structure, colour and their capacity to protect by giving shade, they are more or less like the leaves of last year and the year before; they are new because they react to the challenge of seasons.
The Shade of New Leaves emerged out of an international conference on the living reality of customary law and traditional governance held in Windhoek in 2004. The conference was organised by the Centre for Applied Social Sciences and the Human Rights and Documentation Centre, both affiliated to the Faculty of Law of the University of Namibia, in co-operation with the Law Departments of the Universities of Bremen, Germany, and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
The contributions to this publication are grouped into six parts: Part 1: Legal pluralism, traditional governance and the challenge of the democratic constitutional order; Part 2: Traditional administration of justice revisited; Part 3: Ascertaining customary law: prerequisite of good governance in traditional authority; Part 4: Legal philosophy, African philosophy and African jurisprudence; Part 5: Research, training and teaching of customary law; and Part 6: Afterthoughts.
Manfred O. Hinz is professor at the University of Bremen and the University of Namibia, specialising in public law, jurisprudence and political and legal anthropology. Helgard K. Patemann is researcher in the Centre for Applied Social Sciences, Faculty of Law, University of Namibia, specialising in medical anthropology and anthropology of religion.