As a physical vestige of colonial history, Shark Island has a distinctly sinister quality. The site of a prisoner-of-war camp during the Genocide of 1904–1908 committed by the German colonial force against the Herero and Nama, Shark Island’s historical meaning is matched by its wind-blown barrenness and rugged, stony landscape. It is a place where no human could survive for long.
In her definitive work on the history of Namibia, Marion Wallace writes that, ‘Things were particularly bad in the Lüderitz district, where the notorious Shark Island was situated, and where the most extreme effects of the concentration camp policy were felt. Herero prisoners began to arrive at the beginning of 1905. Nama prisoners were sent to the island from September 1906 onwards.’