Naftal Aebeb, hunting guide at Byseewah Safaris, passed away suddenly due to metastatic parotid cancer. Naftal will be remembered by many people around the world, and be in our memory books for his great company and his special skills out in the bush. Always smiling, he was a really special person, an example to us all. Naftal did not have any formal education but became one of the first local hunting guides to qualify in Namibia. He spoke five languages and taught himself to read and write. He lost his left arm in a car accident 17 years ago, but never let this get in his way of doing his job, whether it was guiding, changing a tyre or digging a hole! He was part of the Byseewah family for 30 years and he would have turned 45 this month. He leaves behind his three children, Evangelina who is 21 and works in Outjo, Smedley (15) and Heroliena (14) who are both in Grade 8 in a school near Windhoek. Lynda has applied for guardianship of the two younger children and will continue to look after them along with the rest of the Byseewah staff.
Below are some letters written to Naftal by friends who have known him a long time.
I think the first time we met was in 1994. Right from the beginning it became clear that the two of us are a good team. I love to work with everybody on Byseewah but we always had a special relationship.
Due to this fact we spent a lot of time together. We learned of each other. We talked about our hopes, fears, philosophies and later the children, which I could watch growing up. We had patience with each other although that was not exactly our strength. Our friendship was growing each time we met. We called us brothers.
You impressed me in many ways. As a hunter, as a father, your way to be honest and straight in your very own way that was far away from mainstream. There is a reason why the name of my son is Raphael-Naftal. I wish he could have met you.
When I got the news of your death it was a heavy blow. Since years I was very aware of the fact that I felt privileged and lucky having you as a friend. Even death can`t take away all the special times and moments we had together. This way of looking at it eased the pain a lot and gave me strength. You leave a big gap but we will go on. You would have done the same. Never give up.
Some years ago we were talking about death. You said you were afraid that people could forget you. I promised you I wouldn`t. Well, keeping this promise is an easy one. How could somebody forget you?
So, farewell my friend. Hope to see you later.
Dirk Seemüller – Germany
My dear Friend Naftal
The first time we met was in 1998 on my first trip to Namibia and Byseewah. Although you were 2 or 3 years my senior, life had bestowed upon you more wisdom and life to your years.
In the following years, we saw each other one or several times per year and you taught me new skills on every occasion. I grew a lot as hunter but also as a human being and this in no small way by being inspired by your spirit.
You fully deserved and defended your place in life. With more support and means during your young childhood, I am convinced that your intelligence and perseverance would have brought you to upper academic and professional levels. This was sadly not the case, but fortunately your talents were not wasted nor neglected. Your intelligence and drive to acquire knowledge was fuelled by self-study, you taught yourself to read, to speak Lanky (imagine what would have happened if Ken spoke Oxford English)…Not only languages were your forte, but what a fine connoisseur of human psychology you were, not to be fooled and knowing how to react in emotional situations that are intertwined with hunting circumstances.
You had a doggedness to achieve your goal and this invariably influenced those you were interacting with. The rare talent you had to read the land and mind of your prey and the anticipation on its next moves were only hindered by the burden of the hunter who gave up and ran out of steam (some out of heart). If it were up to you, you would have persevered and would have followed to hell and back. Never give up.
To never give up was also shown when you recuperated from the loss of your arm. You overcame the mental and physical strain with the support from the whole Byseewah team and by self-determination. I have never heard any complaint about the unfairness and a lesser soul would have found ample reason to wail and sink into self-pity. Not you, my friend, not you.
We spoke a lot about our families. You were so proud of Evangelina, Herolina and Smedly. As parents we had the same hopes for our children, the same worries as well. You brought them up and this mostly as a single parent, no simple feat, considering that you wanted them to aim high and that you gave them all the opportunities and assistance you were deprived of during your childhood. Only future will tell, but I have very strong hopes that you have succeeded and that they will strive in life.
It would be an honour for me to sit with them and to recount what I learned from you and share our mutual hunting achievements and stories. We also knew failures, but let’s say that it might more be due to me and to no fault of your own. There was never any bitterness when such a failure (very seldom) occurred and we set them behind and moved on to do better next time.
You leave a huge void behind. All your Belgian friends remember you very fondly and are devastated by the news. To all of us you were an integral part of Byseewah and it is hard to imagine Byseewah without you. I hope that you will keep an eye out for us from above and that you will keep on guiding us through life. Where you are you will meet friends who preceded you and I am sure you will guide them again.
We feel the deep and indescribable sadness of Ken and Lynda. They looked upon you as a son and your loss cuts deeply into their soul. They also may not give up.
All your friends from Byseewah will wake up to a new world, a life without Naftal, hardly imaginable, but sadly the reality. We also want to offer our condolences to them and share their grief.
Evangelina, Herolina and Smedley, this is the time where you will have to pull together. You are not alone to do this. You will be carried by the base your father laid and supported and cared for by the family of Byseewah. It is however up to you where you will stand in life and how you will approach your future. You have it in you to become as outstanding as Naftal, your father, a name and a legacy to carry proudly.
My dear Friend Naftal, you were an exceptional man and we were all privileged to have come to know you.
Jean and Caroline Vande Vyvere – Belgium
We lost a great human being, father, and an amazing professional hunter.
I send my deepest condolences to his family and friends.
Some of my fondest memories stem from experiences shared with Naftal.
He and Moses submerged me into the passion of hunting. I was a young boy who nervously handled his rifle when they first took me out into the wild plains of Byseewah. Naftal used to run through the bush – always going too fast as Ken would say – while I usually got stuck in needles and burrows, often scaring that animal which we had been chasing for hours away. As exhausted as we’d be, he never got impatient, never lost his temper. He’d rather smile when seeing my hat hanging in the acacia thorn as That One Oryx fled, never to be seen again. I missed some shots too, some of which I’d still rather not talk about, not that he ever would have… There was always a valuable lesson to be learned from almost every outing.
How much I – and perhaps most of us – have lost that. We tend to keep on going forward, sometimes trampling our way in search of quick satisfaction. With Naftal, I had moments where I felt ashamed of my own frustration when thinking about how he must have felt. Chasing endlessly with a loud and clumsy European tourist behind him. But he never complained.
Then there are those magical moments. It’s a Byseewah trademark apparently. I feel grateful and humbled thinking about the emotions felt in the field in Naftal’s presence. He took me to the best hides. There’s one, and I still rather not reveal its location, as we agreed upon – or rather as I urged him – not to reveal. I kind of suspected he’d known about it for ages, but he made me feel as if we found it. Hiding in that small bush not so far from the Iron Rock water hole – and I’m already revealing a lot here – has often been the highlight of my trips to Byseewah. Eland bulls towering above us just a few meters away, a kudu herd just settling there for ages, just long enough for us to figure out who is who, who has how many stripes, who seems to be misbehaving, etc. And jackals… He could spot them from a mile. I must admit, I’ve told him many times “yes I see them but they are too far”. I actually never saw them until they came up too close and me, once again, startled them, and made them flee so fast that I could never lift my rifle on time. Again, Naftal just smiled.
Those many hours spent in the Uri, I treasure just as much. No point talking about football with Naftal. He just made me feel as if I just quickly read a Wikipedia page about the sport. In music though, I felt we had a connection. I felt bad last year as I forgot to bring him some CDs. I planned on making up for it this May. These unfortunate events decided otherwise. I still hope I can share some of my memories and perhaps some music too with the people whom he cared so much about. My thoughts are with them now. I believe the many hardships which Naftal endured throughout his life are eclipsed by the goodness he brought around him. To me, he is as authentic a man as the positiveness and joy he exuded throughout the 25-odd years I’ve had the immense pleasure of knowing him. May he rest in peace and may his relatives find peace in his memory.
Charles van Marcke – Belgium