“Once” is the name of my taxi driver in Namibia (like once in a lifetime). People have strange names here: Darling, Given, Gift, or even Mistake. They all give clues about the way they were conceived.
I am staying at my friend’s place in Windhuk, the capital of Namibia. I don’t dare to drive here (cars drive on the left side of the road) so I am using taxis, which are very cheap here—and a common way to get around. I have 10 days, in Namibia, to look after my social project called Creabuntu. It’s been going on for six years now.
Creabuntu is about art. I am organizing theatre and visual-arts classes for kids in Katutura, the township of Windhuk, where people live in metal houses without electricity and running water. People are using the riverbed as a toilet. There is dust, garbage and pop-up bars. As we are driving to Katutura, my Once wants to know how the weather is in Germany and how much money he can make as a taxi driver there. I tell him it’s the same as in Namibia. This is a lie, but why should I tell him the truth? I want to avoid the talk about moving to Germany, but he is already saying he wants to go to Germany, make a lot of money and come back to Namibia. He thinks it’s better over there—in Europe.
I used to think it’s better in Namibia, so I don’t blame him. It’s money for him. It was freedom and sunshine, for me, that I was looking for in Namibia. Instead, I found many setbacks with charity work in Namibia. For example, I organized a space where local art teachers could teach, and it worked out well for many months. Then, from one day to the other, it collapsed: the teachers left, or the space where the project took place didn’t want us anymore. We had to start over. Creabuntu, is a combination of create and Ubuntu, which is a South-African term for community and oneness.
I had a big dream: building our own house in Katutura, with a soup kitchen and an art school, where kids can learn life skills through art. Instead, we (the association Creabuntu is part of) are supporting a soup kitchen that is already there. Using money from donations to build a roof and pave the ground, we contributed to the community centre where the soup kitchen is taking place.
Visiting the soup kitchen, I met Paula, a volunteer. She tells me that she went to the soup kitchen to get food when she was a child. Now she gives back and teaches the kids to sing the ABCs, or dances with them. She works as a housekeeper. I have the idea to give her training to become a drama teacher because she seems to be talented. My acting teacher, Elzaan, can do it. She has been with Creabuntu for six years now and works as a professional acting coach in different schools. With the new roof comes the idea to give the children more activities. More structure and more opportunities. Charity work in Namibia is a constant work in progress.
My taxi driver, Once, is reliable and picks me up from the soup kitchen to bring me back to the place I am staying. Windhuk is a vibrant city where houses and skyscrapers are built. I haven’t been here for almost two years, and Once showed me a new building—a huge complex with offices. On top of the roof there is a golden statue holding a baby. It’s supposed to show Samuel Nujoma, the former president of Namibia.
The building belongs to Swapo, the leading party of Namibia. It will be their new headquarters and it costs about 700-million Namibian dollars, Once told me. Which is roughly about 52 million in Canadian dollars. The building is facing the Katutura hospital, a brown building that needs to be renovated. It’s lacking medical equipment, and conditions there are awful: patients have to lay on the floor, there are rats and cockroaches running around, doctors are lacking proper medical equipment.
“They are building this huge complex and people are dying, just opposite, in the hospital. It’s not fair,” I said. “This is Africa for you,” Once answers, as he drives along towards the city center where I am staying, in a safe place, far away from the township and the golden statue.