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‘Hereroland’ premieres at NTN this Thursday

After three years of pandemic era setbacks, ‘Hereroland’ will premiere at the National Theatre of Namibia this Thursday and present two more Windhoek shows this weekend.

First staged at the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg in 2020 and originally directed by David Ndjavera and German director Gernot Grünewald, the multidisciplinary performance concerned with the Herero and Nama genocide of 1904 will additionally be showcased at Swakopmund, and will host two free shows at Okakarara and Otjinene.

With director Lizette Kavari taking the reins from the late Ndjavera, ‘Hereroland’ is billed as a bilateral examination in which artists from Namibia and Germany consider their communal colonial past, interrogating colonial crimes and the enduring effects of the era through a novel form of theatre.

“‘Hereroland’ is a theatre production that’s exploring new avenues of what theatre is,” says Kavari of the production that blends virtual reality with live theatre.

“Instead of putting different locations on the stage in a parcour like in Hamburg, we went to the original locations of the action with a 360° camera and shot some scenes there,” says Grünewald.

“On stage, the audience can now virtually “travel” to these locations with the help of their smartphones and simple VR glasses and look around in the scenes. It is an attempt not only to negotiate reality in the theatre, but to bring reality into the theatre in digital form and also to let this production live on digitally beyond the performances.”

This hybrid version of ‘Hereroland’ will be live-streamed to Hamburg in a bid to bridge the gap between the continents and enable an exchange between the artists and the audiences of both countries.

Saturday afternoon’s Windhoek show will be free of charge for students and pupils.

Inspired by various historical documents and contemporary interviews, ‘Hereroland’ presents the experiences and sentiments of the German perpetrators and their descendants and contrasts them with those of the descendants of the Herero.

The production stars Otja Kambaekua, Ben Kandukira, Lizette Kavari, Glenn-nora Tjipura, West Uarije, Gift Uzera, Jonas Anders and Jörg Pohl.

“In Germany, the performance always had an educational character. Many people knew nothing or very little about this first genocide of the 20th century perpetrated by the Germans. This is different in Namibia,” says Grünewald.

“Here, bringing the topic on stage seems to be a highly political act in itself. There are the descendants of the German settlers who, in part, continue to deny the injustice committed to legitimise their land ownership. There is also the affected people who have felt the consequences of this land theft in their families for over a hundred years. Both groups of people should see the project and talk about the implications of the historical facts,” says Grünewald.

In the time since ‘Hereroland’s’ world premiere in Hamburg, director Ndjavera and Cynthia Schimming, the production’s costume designer, have both passed away.

“It means a lot to stage this production in Namibia. We had to go through a lot of hurdles so I hope David Ndjavera is proud of all of us,” says Kavari.

“This is generational work. This is an amazing idea that not only Ndjavera started but that I hope is continued for generations to come in terms of how artists preserve their historical culture.”

While the staging has been adapted considerably from the original, audiences will still get to see much of Schimming’s costuming.

“The Namibian team has tried to develop the project in David’s spirit. It is tragic for me that David will not be able to experience the performances in Namibia, just as it is for Cynthia,” says Grünewald, who previously worked with Schimming on ‘Oshi-Deustch’ which premiered in Windhoek in 2016.

“I think it’s good that in this way their work will continue for a moment,” says Grünewald. “And that, in a sense, they will be on stage with us.”

For more information visit ntn.org.na. Tickets are available from Webtickets Namibia and at the door.

– martha@namibian.com.na ; Martha Mukaiwa on Twitter and Instagram; marthamukaiwa.com