First Namibian Opera 'chief Hijangua' To Be Performed In Berlin

21 Apr 2023

After its great success in Namibia, the first Namibian(-German) opera will also be staged in Germany. 'Chief Hijangua' by composer Eslon Hindundu and librettist Nikolaus Frei is on the repertoire in Berlin next September.

The Berlin Senate Chancellery has approved the application for funding, director Kim Meyer confirmed when asked by NamibiaFocus. According to her, the funding, which is provided by the Lotto Stiftung (Foundation) Berlin, amounts to seven to eight times the budget that was available for the performance in Windhoek.

This makes it possible to completely redesign the stage set and costumes, Kim Meyer is pleased to say. It also enables the project management to engage more actors and the team has more time to discuss characters and scenes in depth.

The soloists will remain largely the same, the chorus will be expanded. In addition, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB) will play with its full cast. For the world premiere in Namibia, it had sent some members to reinforce the Namibian National Symphony Orchestra []. As in Windhoek, the conductor is the composer Eslon Hindundu.

The concept of cross-cultural and cross-border cooperation in opera production is also being continued. Namibian artists contribute to costumes, puppets and stage design. Director Kim Meyer is currently in Namibia to collect materials and meet contributors.


Tragic hero with whom everyone can identify


The first Namibian opera 'Chief Hijangua', to be performed in Berlin one year after its successful premiere in Windhoek in a more refined production. Here Hijangua (centre: Sakhiwe Mkosana, baritone) in conflict with his elder brother Nguti (left: Galilei Njembo, tenor) over Matijua (right: Henrike Henoch, soprano).
Photo: Michael Panitz


The opera 'Chief Hijangua' is about the genocide of the OvaHerero during the German colonial period. It tells the fictional story of the younger son of a Herero chief. His father assigns the woman of his heart, Matijua, to his older brother. As a result, he leaves his village, crosses the desert and ends up on the coast in a village of German settlers.

Manipulated by a pastor and an officer, he wants to take what he thinks is rightfully his: The leadership of his community and Matijua. So Hijangua returns to his village and shoots his father in a dispute. Too late he realises that as a dupe of the Germans he is contributing to the downfall of his people.

A (human) tragedy that, according to its rules, leads to ruin without giving the protagonists a choice. And which allows every spectator, whether Herero or German (or British for that matter), to identify with the tragic hero.

The premiere of 'Chief Hijangua' in Berlin will take place on 15 September at the Haus des Rundfunks. This is almost exactly one year after the successful world premiere in Windhoek (see our news report), which only came about thanks to generous support from sponsors such as Siemens Arts Program, the German Foreign Office and the German

Embassy in Windhoek. More about the opera on the website of the 'Opera Namibia' project).


Looking forward to Berlin: Eslon Vakomboka Hindundu, composer of Namibia's first opera 'Chief Hijangua', and director Kim Mira Meyer.
Photo: Project 'Opera Namibia

Sven-Eric Stender

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