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Discovering Her Passion Through Acting

Promising local actress Tjiurimo Kandjii (21) has been hard at work establishing her career.

The communications student at the Namibia University of Science and Technology says acting has always been part of her life, even as a little child. She hopes to develop her skill and collaborate with some of the best actors in Namibia, and further afield, with the aim of making it to the big screen and appearing in some of the best African productions.

The Weekender caught up with Kandjii this week, after she was spotlighted as an actor by the Namibia Film Commission (NFC).

Her selection as the ‘Actor Focus of the Month’ for June comes after working in the field of acting for some time and attending numerous NFC events, including the ‘Women in Film Breakfast’.

“When I learned the news, I was surprised, but I viewed it as a fantastic chance to promote my work,” said Kandjii, who is currently working on a few film projects which she will co-produce and perform in herself.

She described this as incredibly exciting and giving her a chance to take on a different role and have more creative control over her work. These projects will debut towards this year still, she said.

Kandjii participated in her first theatre production, ‘Beer Girl’, in 2018.

“It was a thrilling experience and my first step into acting. With two other co-stars, including my sister Nguundja Kandjii, I played the lead role of Lorraine when I was just 17 years old.”

Her sister has had a significant influence in her development as an actress, she said.

“She guided me throughout the entire process when she was a theatre student at the University of Namibia and knew a lot more than I did. She still serves as my biggest supporter, guide and anchor today,” she said.

The drama ‘Heart in the Ground’ by Douglas Hill, which was directed by her sister, featured Kandjii as part of the cast in 2019.

“I played the lead character, Karen. At this time, I had fallen in love with theatre, the enchantment one can conjure up in that specific space, the capacity to engage with viewers and influence their emotions, and – most importantly – the freedom to be anyone and anything the tale demands you to be.

“This was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life at that point,” she said.

Covid-19 caused her journey to come to a stop, though, she said.

Although she did go through the National Theatre of Namibia (NTN) audition process for other productions, she never bagged the role.

She held her first short film audition for ‘Stray Flower’, under the direction of Nandi Nastasja, in 2021.

“At the time, I was unsure about the purpose of the audition, but my sister persuaded me to participate. I did, however, land the role, and it wasn’t until much later that I realised it was for a movie. I was thrilled and nervous because I had never worked on a movie before,” said the young actress.

‘Stray Flower’ was supposed to be her debut film, but before filming started she was given a recommendation for a different film being made at the time, ‘Measures of Men’, which was the first film she worked on.

“I showed up on set as an extra. This was a life-changing experience for me because I had such a small part to play yet had to cut my hair for it. I wasn’t interested in doing it at first, but one of the assistant directors on set reminded me that I had to do everything in my ability to portray the character accurately because I was an actress. It’s just hair, and it will regrow.

“Being on that set taught me a lot. Everything that had only been a fantasy before became a reality. Everything was attainable and within my reach,” she said.

When she returned to filming ‘Stray Flower’, she already knew what to anticipate and how the film industry operated.
“I’ve learned as I go and love every minute of the experience. I love working on various sets and constantly meeting new people,” Kandjii said.

She has two NBC and MultiChoice films that are yet to premiere later this year, she said.
“I appeared in two different movies, one by Just Think Productions and directed by Micheal Pulse in which I played a supporting role. The other was by Lucia Kim Hamunghete, and I played the lead in that movie,” she said.

As a young actor, Kandjii said the likes of Viola Davis and Taraji P Henson have had a significant influence on her work. While they are both outstanding performers, Kandjii has been inspired by their journeys and what is possible when one is passionate about what one does and puts a lot of effort into it, she said.

Getting jobs and even staying employed are some of the biggest challenges for actors.

“If you do manage to get employment, it won’t be reliable or sufficient to support you. As an actor, I have the opportunity to contribute to this trade, which is a privilege in and of itself, thus with tremendous challenges come wonderful benefits.”