Pre-festival Programme – It Works

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The introduction of the concept of a pre-festival programme for the first time to the fourth annual Bank Windhoek Festival is working like the proverbial bomb in all aspects of its implementation. So said the chief organiser of the festival, retired head of the Performing Arts Department at the University of Namibia, professor Aldo Behrens, in an open-hearted Art/Life interview. The maverick actor, playwright and theatre director had quite some revolutionary thoughts about the festival to make it a vibrant and ongoing event right around the year. “In the short period of time I have proposed the pre-festival programme, I was amazed at the positive reaction to it by the general public. Attendances went up for most of the events that have so far been accommodated in the programme, from music, plays and visual arts, everything. It really does my heart good,” Behrens said with a broad smile during the interview at the Unam campus on Wednesday morning. He bases the success of the pre-festival on his personal three-fold life philosophy in his decades-old involvement in Namibian entertainment “I believe the festival must be ongoing throughout the year and not only the 10 days in September. The pre-festival builds the excitement towards the climax at the actual festival, aimed at giving more creative opportunities to Namibian artists who have always had to play second fiddle. I have no problem bringing in the big stars from South Africa and anywhere else for that matter. It’s crucial that Namibians be part of everything,” Behrens stated what many other local progressive artists have been agitating for so many years. According to Behrens, with three commissioned Afrikaans stage plays to his credit, everything is all of a sudden coming together in the art world on various fronts. “For years no real cooperation existed between institutionalised and community artists with the result that everything had been done in isolation. “The pre-festival offers a unique opportunity to implement a process of healing and consolidation in the art world of the country. “All and sundry are permitted to submit works for performance and exhibition considerations during this time up to the main festival. This is really a case of smart partnerships in action,” Behrens said with a broad grin of satisfaction. He is of the opinion that the business sector should come in stronger in the promotion and marketing of Namibian arts and culture projects. “As an artist I have been fortunate to have been approached to write two commissioned works, Dors and Hoop by a local church group and an insurance company. However, it is my gut feeling that the corporate world should get more involved in commissioning various forms of artistic expressions. This argument is based on the fact that the world’s classical creative works had all been commissioned over the centuries,” he said. The pre-festival programme last night featured the Unam choir at the National Theatre of Namibia with Severius Majiedt as a guest artist in the role of a narrator for the musical presentation. “Of course everything had not been smooth-sailing in the pre-festival. Some artists cancelled or postponed shows and presentations, but it’s all a learning process for us all. We can’t expect everything to turn out perfectly the first time around,” Behrens, who mentioned that South African writer Hans du Plessis had postponed his writers’ workshop to the end of next month, said. In his view arts as a form of human expression is not a one-off thing or weekend event. “It needs to be ongoing in all aspects spiritually and emotionally and the pre-festival provides that stimulus and impetus,” said Behrens, who will do a public book reading session tomorrow in the capital at the public library as part of World Book Day.