A barren desert panorama stretches throughout the boards of the RBB broadcasting corridor. Copper poles type a synthetic hedge, a choir in vast robes walks throughout grey stone backdrops. In between: a younger prince, his lover – and a merciless trauma.
“I used to be shocked that 90 p.c of individuals right here in Germany have by no means heard of German-Namibian historical past,” says the Namibian composer Eslon Hindundu to the Tagesspiegel on the sidelines of the primary rehearsal on Monday. “Chief Hijangua” is concerning the bloody German colonial occupation within the so-called “German South West Africa”, which isn’t solely Hindudu’s first opera, but additionally the primary opera in Namibia. A 12 months in the past it celebrated its sold-out premiere in Windhoek, and from September fifteenth to seventeenth, 2023 it may be heard for the primary time in Europe: in Berlin.
With a group from Namibia, South Africa and Germany, Hindundu is bringing a big venture to the stage. He and the German director Kim Mira Meyer have been long-time buddies after they got here up with the thought for the intercultural, post-colonial opera venture. What follows is a Herculean logistical act: visits to Windhoek, visits to Munich, numerous Zoom calls and much more WhatsApp messages – all throughout a worldwide pandemic. In distinction to conventional classical initiatives, the group tried to have as few hierarchical constructions as potential. There isn’t any different solution to implement a venture like this, says director Kim Mira Meyer: “There’s at all times trauma within the room. And if I, as a German director, confront my Namibian colleagues on stage in a hierarchical method, then it doesn’t work.”
“Chief Hijangua” is a harrowing work that meanders between the brutal historical past of colonialism and the basic opera plot. The libretto by the German historian Nikolaus Frei is predicated on Namibian and German traditions and exhibits the start of German colonization – and the foreshadowing of the genocide towards the Herero and Nama. The opera, partly in German, partly in Otjiherero, attracts inspiration from the lifetime of resistance fighter Samuel Maharero: The libretto follows the fictional Prince Hijangua, whose lover is to be married to his brother. Out of grief, Hijangua flees into the desert. When he will get misplaced, he’s discovered by a German missionary’s daughter who takes him to the mission. There a significant manipulates him into returning to his village and seizing energy by pressure. The German corps secretly follows Hijangua to his homeland – the opera results in the merciless German assault on the village and the start of the colonial occupation.
For Eslon Hindundu, a Herero himself, the opera was a part of a journey of self-discovery. “My era, which was born free, is aware of little about our tradition and the way we lived.” German colonization and genocide worn out giant components of the Herero and Nama cultures. “We lose our melodies, our rhythms. For me, penning this opera meant returning to these roots and preserving them.”
The truth that there’s so little consciousness of colonization in Germany shocks Hindundu – he hopes to have the ability to educate the viewers about historical past and the German-Namibian connection. For that reason, director Kim Mira Meyer staged the play in a extra brutal means for the German premiere than in Namibia. “Right here in Germany the difficulty is swept underneath the carpet. That’s why it’s important to be a bit extra brave in the way in which you seem artistically. We need to discover a solution to present how brutal folks may be. In order that the viewers sits on the sting of their seat, empathizes and understands that there was a tradition in Namibia earlier than colonialism got here.”
Hindundu embeds the bloody plot in melodies that sound nearly too lovely for his or her materials: the composer combines late romantic arias and dazzling, Pucciniesque choirs with cluster chords and Namibian tunes and rhythms, which the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra will play. Twapewa Amutenya and Naomi Nambinga created Afrofuturistic costumes together with summary headpieces that have been already seen on the Namibian Vogue Week – Gretl Kautzsch bent filigree animal puppets out of wire for the manufacturing, that are moved throughout the stage by a puppeteer.
Within the “colorblind” ensemble, the Namibian, German and South African artists every tackle each German and Namibian roles. Sakhiwe Mkosana and Janice van Rooy as Hijangua and his lover stand out in rehearsals with their exceptional concord and vocal energy. On the premiere on Friday they may sing in entrance of a distinguished customer: Joseph Uapingene, Mayor of Windhoek, and the Namibian Ambassador Martin Andjaba are sitting within the corridor, and Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner, Senator for Tradition Joe Chialo and Minister of State Claudia Roth have additionally introduced their presence. For 3 evenings, Hindudu’s shimmering melodies will ring by the printed corridor. The group continues to be conserving quiet about additional dates for the primary Namibian opera – however one factor is evident: the Berlin manufacturing won’t be the final.