By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK “Until shortÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âly before Independence the then Windhoek Theatre was the exclusive preserve of White Windhoek, sustained by the colonial administration almost in all aspects.” So said poet and board member of the National Theatre of Namibia, Mvula ya Nangolo, on Friday evening as the keynote speaker at the announcement of the winners of the third Golden Pen Awards on Friday evening. Some 150 invited guests attended the event that was launched in 1998 and has since yielded two Namibian play anthologies. “Prior to Independence the then white theatre staged a full complement of European music, heavily subsidized European opera, ballet, European and Afrikaans drama, sustained by the admiÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Ânistration. Black Namibian performers had no access to the theatre, to its programming, its funding or to any subsidized training in theatre, just as they had no access to any institutional cultural controls,” Ya NanÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âgolo said. He likened the Namibian situation then to that of the old British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that would only hire those with “Queen’s English accents, ‘culture’ that was not of the oppressor’s or colonialist’s official mould”. “Radio, television, theatre and the local Conservatoire did not permit entry of any subversive elements into the official mainstream and government-sponsored culture. My mere presence on this stage here tonight is a sign of dramatic change for the better, if not for the best,” he said optimistically. The winners of the third Golden Pen Awards are: Henry Baily (best male playwright) for the play Marengo; Nailoke Mhanda (best female playwright) for the drama Their Secret Lives; and Dieter Friedrich (overall best playwright and best play on the theme of reconciliation, who received N$7 000 in prize money). “The Golden Pen Awards is aimed at giving young Namibian scriptwriters an opportunity to write new theatre plays for presentation to local audiences, to develop the local theatre industry and to create awareness for locally produced theatre plays in general,” said Ya Nangolo of the writing competition that drew 21 entries from around the country. Ya Nangolo was also proud of the NTN’s Golden Pen Awards for having introduced the important aspect of reconciliation as the theme for this year’s competition. “Special incentive is also given to female playwrights to come into the open. This is part of the NTN’s commitment to equal gender representation in cultural development,” he stressed. The Golden Pen judges were: dr Sarala KrisnaÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âmurthy, Dean of students at the Polytechnic of Namibia, Fred Opali, head of the Communications Department at the same institution and professor Mbongeni Malaba, Head of the English Department at Unam. The main sponsors of the Golden Pen Awards were Nedbank and the Finnish embassy in Windhoek.
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