Stages sprouted in parking lots, a senior home became a drive-by gallery and Groot Aub was a vibrant place of OYO Dance Troupe performance as the second annual Otjomuise Live Arts Festival (Olaf) swept across the city and beyond.
Opening at the College of the Arts Theatre School on 14 October with performances by Ou Lokasi Cultural Group and Sven-Eric Müller and closing with a family-friendly market day and a live performance programme at Penduka Village on 22 October, the festival featured more than 80 artists exploring an array of themes through performance, poetry, music, movement, discussion, dance, installation and visual art.
Olaf is co-produced by the National Theatre of Namibia and Goethe-Institut Namibia alongside a host of partners and returned to the scene with the aim of pulling art into the everyday through a series of small-scale happenings and engagements, each marked by the festival’s iconic blue banners and ever-enthused staff.
“In its second edition, Olaf had a significant increase in the number of attendees, which was about 2 700, compared to the first season that had about 1 000 people in attendance,” says National Theatre of Namibia public relations officer Desiree Mentor. “We also had more creatives involved this year, numbers doubling to around 80. In all, it was a huge success.”
While public art is relatively new to Windhoek’s unsuspecting residents, the sudden appearance of Gift Uzera, Munigandu Hoveka and Marchell Linus So-Oabeb’s ‘The Fire Project’ in Ausspannplatz or the surprise of Steven Afrikaner’s ‘Rhymes & Rhythms of Khoekhoegowab’ at Sukkot Playground in Dolam were certainly welcome.
“Good vibes, great weather and brilliant artistry can make people overly receptive,” says Mentor.
“Olaf definitely brought the much-needed festive atmosphere to the city with its unique and diverse offerings that allowed people to break away from the monotony of everyday life to socialise and have new experiences.”
With Cassidy Karon performing ‘Katutura’s Favourite Son’ at a playground in Wanaheda and Ndayola Ulenga sharing operatic ‘Stories from Childhood’ in Suiderhof, Olaf made a stage of sports fields, women centres and local viewpoints as it explored themes ranging from the need for safer queer spaces in ‘Q.Surroundings’, men’s mental health with Michael Namaseb, surviving poverty and the bond of family with Adriano Visagie and Keanu Greeves to climate change with Natache Ilonga and Martin Jimmy Namupala, amid so much more.
“Because Olaf is so unique with its location settings, it naturally attracts the public with most of its showcases,” says Mentor. “We would normally get passersby enquiring about showcases and joining in. With some of the locations, there had never been any type of artistic showcase presented. Personally, the festival allowed me to foster great connections between people and places.”
Olaf also included a vital focus on children with events such as ‘Reading as a Superpower’ with Waka-Waka Moo and Tangeni and ‘Laughter is Medicine’, a theatrical piece for young audiences presented by Mervin Claasen, Melkizedeck Nehemiah and Moricha Job at Babylon playground.
Though Olaf has ended, two murals – one by Tity Tshilumba at the National Art Gallery of Namibia and the other by Hage Mukwendje at Mandume Primary School in Katutura – shall remain as the festival lingers and teases its vibrant return.
For more information and to watch highlights from this year’s festival, follow olaf_namibia on Instagram or visit www.olafnamibia.com
– [email protected] ; Martha Mukaiwa on Twitter and Instagram; marthamukaiwa.com