It’s 15 minutes before our performance starts and one of my actors has a meltdown. “No, I am not gonna play,” he says avoiding eye contact.
Philo is 12 years old and usually confident. I would never have expected that from him. It’s Valentine’s Day and we rehearsed for our little performance the whole week.
At first, I don’t know what to say to Philo, then I think about telling him that I feel like this every time I have to go on stage. But before I can, he runs away.
I am teaching drama at Bernard Nordkamp Centre (BNC) in Katutura, a township of Namibia’s capital, Windhoek.
The BNC is an after-school-program, run by Marybeth, an American who has been leading it for 12 years. Here, kids get a lunch and tutoring in Math, English and other subjects. Social workers take care of them and there is a playground, toys and books. Everything is founded on sponsors and donations.
I have been to Namibia before as a journalist, I saw the conditions children live in in this township and had the idea of giving them acting lessons.
Having studied drama and given acting workshops to kids in Germany, I had the idea to try the same here. The idea is to help children develop life-skills through acting and art.
But on this day I am not prepared for Philo’s meltdown. While I was running around, searching for a volunteer to help me change his mind, the kids in my drama class managed to calm Philo down by themselves. When I return to the “stage” – a corner with a roof tent in the open – I find my actors standing in a circle praying for a great performance; Philo in the middle.
Prayer and faith – two things one needs in this country.
Eventually we have our little Valentine’s Day show and everybody is happy.
I am not the world’s best actress, but I am a good teacher and able to give drama workshops in Namibia for three months in different locations.
I am in Namibia with a vision: I will found my own art school with an after-school- program in Katutura. There are 20,000 kids living here and they often have no place to go after school; they hang around in the streets and get into trouble and crime.
The BNC only takes 250 children, Marybeth tells me. I watch her organizing everything, putting up with difficulties every day. I observe parents coming in, asking for space for their kids, but Marybeth puts them on her waiting list.
“There should be a centre like this on every corner in Katutura,” she tells me and my idea grows.
I want to create a place where kids can go after school, have lunch, learn visual and performing arts and music, and have space to do homework. Through art they can heal, transform and develop skills like discipline, strength, self-worth and creativity.
The idea turns into action: I have already connected with artists and friends who are willing to help me in Windhoek. I will start a non-governmental organization (NGO) and maybe I will get support from Canada as Marybeth does: students of the University of Waterloo in Ontario come to volunteer at the BNC every year.
Currently I am in Germany to start this larger-than-life project.
For more information go to www.creabuntu.de.