“On 20 September 1907, a British armed force of about 100 men… along with some scouts caught up with a small group of Nama making their way northwards of the desolate red dune and white salt-plain of southern Kalahari.
“In the ensuing engagement, which lasted about three days, the British fired 5,000 rounds and killed six armed Nama, as well as two accompanying women,” the official British account read.
This chilling account of the death of Jacob Morenga, popularly known as the Black Napoleon, was published on 5 November 1907, two months after his death.
Morenga was a skilled opponent, if the British and German forces ever saw one, so much so that they likened him to Napoleon Bonaparte.
He was well educated and multi-lingual having received his education from Christian missionaries. He fell during the battle Eenzaamhied when British forces ambushed him.
Nearly 108 years after his death, Morenga’s legacy still lives on. Like the many leaders of his time, he paved the way that would lead to Namibia’s independence.
To celebrate Namibia’s silver jubilee, the Bank Windhoek Arts Festival (BWAF) and the National Theatre of Namibia (NTN) will restage Jakob Morenga - Lest we forget.
In 2013, the BWAF and NTN commissioned theatre legend director and playwright, Aldo Behrens, to produce the musical.
“Bank Windhoek Arts Festival and NTN commissioned me in 2013 to stage Henry Bailey’s award winning text: Jakob Morenga. I adapted, reworked, arranged his film-like script to a Musical libretto,” Behrens said.
The musical, which was staged for three nights in 2013, went on to win the awards for Best Musical and Best Text, in the category of Film and Theatre Production during the 2014 biennial Namibian Film and Theatre awards.
Since the original staging of the musical, Behrens has received several requests to restage it in all four corners of the country.
“Ottilie Abraham, principal of the Jakob Morenga Secondary School which commemorates its 25th birthday in 2015, approached me and asked for the play to be restaged.
“The NTN and the relevant ministry then saw it fit to support the idea of restaging and decided to fund the venture as part of the Independence Celebrations.
“As many Namibians as possible deserve to see quality work, especially those who value Namibian Independence and how it came about,” he said explaining why they planned to restage the musical.
Responding to queries as to whether people might find it monotonous, Behrens said that he was not of that mind.
He explained that it features original Nama music composed by Marcellinus Swartbooi, complimented by artistic text, beautifully brought to life by some of the best actors in Namibia.
The BW Kalahari Ensemble and Trio Feminale also feature in the production.
“The play not only entertains. It informs. It teaches. It sensitises. It generates respect. The play does not only record the past, it highlights the present and articulates the future,” Behrens noted.
The cast will perform the musical on 12, 13 and 14 March 2015, at the NTN in Windhoek. Tickets to the show are free.