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A sister thing! Creating a sisterhood is important. Seuaa, Umbi and Patty Karuaihe open up on love, life, growing up and being sisters.

They say that we cannot choose our family, but thank goodness we can choose our friends. Some families are lucky that they can both be family and friends. Such is the case of the Karuoihe Sisters-Seuaa, Umbi and Patty. Coming from a large family of seven girls and four boys, they share a unique bond that only sisters can have-and only sisters can understand. Sheena Magenya caught up with the three, Seuaa (S) Umbi (U) and Patty (P) and picked their brains about sisterhood, and why it is such an important relationship.


Q: How important is your relationship as Sisters? How was it growing up as seven girls-the good, the bad and the ugly?

Umbi: (Laughs) Seuaa, start.

Seuaa: I think, when we look at 'normal' families, where you have three children, there are defined rules about characteristics of the first child, the second, child and the third child. But because I'm child number eight, I always wondered what characteristics I should have as child number eight. In big families, you grow up in little groups of friendships-say the first three are closer, and will play together and the same for the next three

U: They are one generation, because we have different generations in one family, like Seuaa is saying.

S: At the end of the day, you still have the bond that you have with the whole family. You can't choose your family and so you have to love them; and in order to love such a big family and to be able to live in such a big communal group, you have to learn to love them.

U: And also you learn to share because you know that you are not alone. And it wasn't just us 11 siblings-my mother also raised other children, and that's where we learnt how to look differently at different people, and each other.

S: And now we can't unlearn it

Patty: Being the youngest of the girls, meaning I am child number 10 on the list, I was fortunately the little one who got all the love from the other siblings, especially Umbi and Seuaa.

Q: Back then, and to a certain degree even today, people valued boy-children over girl children, how did the dynamics of 7 girls and 4 boys change this? Were the boys still favoured over the girls?

S: No ... (Umbi interjects)

U: Yes they boys were favoured over the girls. My dad often took sides with my little brother Paul, because he was a baby and he was a boy. And also Fonnie, the first born son from my mother was seen as the head of the house, despite there being much older girls than him in the house. That's the truth one hundred percent.

S: You see, culturally it so, but I was my father's favourite and was closer to my father than any of the boys, and that's why when you asked the question my immediate answer was no. But you should also consider that we were seven very dynamic girls that sometimes totally overpowered my father-I never felt that he favoured boys over girls. On the other hand Umbi was my mother's favourite.


U: I was definitely more my mother's child, but my father never obviously took sides, except when it came to the last born boy Paul. Otherwise they were both impartial to a large extent.

Q: How did your upbringing influence your relationships as sisters?

U: As Herero people that grew up around Damara/Nama speaking people, this cultural exposure influenced our relationships insomuch as to how we communicate with each other. If we look at our relationship, we feel free to confront each other about anything that is bothering us and in the Herero culture you don't go up to your older sister and say, 'I'm not happy with this: But because of our multicultural exposure, we can confront each other when we have disagreements.

S: When we talk about culture, culture is a living thing, but traditions are our values and beliefs as a people. And I believe in the values and traditions of the Herero people, but I also believe in my multiculturalism. We were told by our parents to go out and be citizens of the world, to believe in ourselves and our values. As sisters, we see ourselves as equal beings, and there is no hierarchy. And the way that we choose to treat each other as sisters is how we a'so treat other people in the wider society.

Q. Are you each other's best friends?

S: Definitely

U: Without the shadow of a doubt. We really love each other and we can agree and disagree without it being the end of the world. All my sisters are my role models, as well as my brothers. Depending on the type of problem I have, I can call up one of my sisters and they will help me solve the issue. When growing up we would sometimes decide to go places as a whole group and our mother would get scared, because if say we got into a car accident, she feared that all her children would die. And we also like to take sides when supporting our siblings-an injury to one is an injury to all! (laughs)

S: I have to say that we're painting this rosy picture about our family, but there is also always a devil in paradise. I have two sisters that I don't talk to whom I still love very much, but we came to a point where we disagreed and I backed off. I love these sisters and I always will ...

U: It's an energy that you can't break

S: Yes, you can't un-love someone, and family is family but it's not always perfect. Maybe one day when I'm old and grey we will make peace, but until that day, things will be the way they are.

U: Even as a parent you cannot love your children equally because they are not equal. You love them all but in different ways, that's also why when you reprimand them, you reprimand them differently. Different personalities require different responses and the same goes for your family and siblings.

P: The good thing with growing up with so many siblings is two-fold. It teaches you how to deal with different personalities, through dealing with your family and loving despite the differences, also you learn how to deal with similar personalities out in the wider world. We were very lucky to have the parents that we did.

U: Our parents were not prefect, they were real people. But they had values that we had to abide by. Like the work ethic they instilled in us-you cannot get something for nothing, we come from a working family which was an example that our parents set and that we emulated. As far as parents go, we had a dreamteam for parents. We have a unity as a family that is sometimes us against the world. We cannot be divided as a family.

Q: Because of the tight-knit bond and relationship you have with your sisters and family-how are your other relationships with the outside world?

S: They are a mess! (Laughs) There is a negative part to it because we grew up so close and sometimes you forget that you have to forge different relationships differently with people in the wider world.

U: Sometimes we will all be at a party and we will all sit together and people will ask us why we can't mingle with the rest of the crowd (Laughs)

P: I don't know whether this is a good or bad thing, but having so many sisters you tend to be spoiled in not having to look for other friends. I think Seuaa is the one that has thousands of friends but I don't have that many friends. It's just that the best friends that you could ever have are your sisters, you don't have to make appointments to see them, and they are always there.
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Title Annotation:PROFILE
Publication:Sister Namibia
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:May 1, 2012
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