Namibian musician Eric Sell, known by his ardent fans as Ees, sparked quite a reaction after he released a video last week in which he implored government to channel money meant for this year’s 28th Independence Day celebrations towards a nationwide clean-up campaign. Ees, speaking to Managing Editor Toivo Ndjebela this week, clarified that contrary to popular belief, he did not call for the scrapping of this year’s Independence Day celebrations, but that the day should be celebrated differently – by cleaning up litter and garbage engulfing the country’s towns.
Toivo Ndjebela (TN): What motivated your call that the Independence Day celebrations for this year be dedicated to cleaning?
Eric Sell (ES): An anonymous “SMS of the Day” I saw in a [The Namibian] newspaper inspired me to produce the video. However, the concept has been used on multiple occasions, and I am convinced that Namibia is ready to also inspire its people and go in a similar direction as Tanzania that did the same.
TN: Your video has sparked mixed reactions – with some people fully in support of your call while others rebuked it. What’s your take particularly on the criticism?
ES: Receiving negative reactions is never a fun experience, especially when the intention was positive. The video sparked a healthy debate, even though many negative remarks focused more on my skin colour and background than my positive and motivational message. The video got over 130,000 views in two days and over 10,000 people shared and liked it – spreading the message to their friends and family to start a positive movement of helping the needy, planting trees and cleaning up the country. It would be disrespectful to them if I only focused my attention on a few negative comments.
TN: Having the benefit of hindsight now, would you still post this message if you had another chance to do so?
ES: Yes-ja, I would still post the video exactly the same way. That is the nicest thing when you speak from the bottom of your heart – there is no need for you to hide because I truly wish for Namibia to become even more prosperous and I want all Namibians to benefit.
TN: One of the questions asked is ‘why now’? In other words, how’s this year different from any other, insofar as the need to clean up is concerned?
ES: Well, I have a very good stance to judge as I am in and out of the country a lot, and to see how some things are slowly getting worse – more litter everywhere, more little begging children on the streets and disease outbreaks. Plus, Namibia is almost 28 years old which, in human life, that is a grown-up. So now I felt it’s time to also talk about grown-up things and move forward together.
TN: Some people suggested that you use your position, as a respected public figure, to help convince Germany to pay reparations for genocide committed in Namibia. What’s your comment on that?
ES: I am using my platform on a daily basis to make Namibia a better place and promote Namibia to the maximum. Last month’s video that I did against Trump calling our African countries shitholes reached millions of people worldwide, with a positive promotion video about how great Namibia is. Yes, Namibia has many issues and I am slowly but surely working on addressing them one by one. It’s very unfortunate that those few critics are not inspired by the positive message behind my motivational video, but have very racist-like tendencies of only focusing on my skin colour and my German roots. I am Namibian like every other Namibian, born and bred.
TN: As a Namibian of German extraction, what are your general views on the issue of genocide and do you believe Namibia has a genuine demand for an official apology and reparations?
ES: I fully acknowledge the genocide that happened about 120 years ago by the German Schutztruppe against Ovaherero and Nama people and I find it totally inhumane what happened. Namibia definitely needs a full apology by Germany for what happened in the past. As far as I know, Germany is already since many years one of the biggest financial supporters of Namibia.
TN: As a German-speaking Namibian, how did you feel when the Reiterdenkmal, a revered monument within your community, was de-proclaimed as a national monument and removed in 2013?
ES: I am not attached to monuments too much and also don’t have any hard feelings that the Reiterdenkmal is not there anymore. I just didn’t like the way it was removed, with that overnight action of removing it on Christmas Eve, the 24th of December, with no option for the media to make photos or videos. That felt a bit weird.
TN: In what way do you use your musical talent to help build trust and race relations in Namibia, given our country’s legacy of racism and segregation?
ES: In every way. I feel like I am the artist in Namibia that has done the most collaborations in my last 13 released albums. Sadly, I’m also one of the few that wave the national flag, as I do almost everywhere I perform in Namibia or on international stages. The content of my lyrics consist of positivity and togetherness – the list goes on. It’s just an honour to do exactly that – as I feel so proud doing that.
TN: Your videos on Donald Trump, in collaboration with Gondwana, were big hits. What’s the idea behind them?
ES: There is basically only one main objective behind it and that is to promote Namibia in a way that the world gets to best know this beautiful country. The other thing is to expose Trump as the racist and idiot that he is.
TN: Musically, what are you currently working on? Any album coming soon or major collaborations?
ES: Well, since the music industry has changed a lot – I mainly am only working on singles since the last few years. Definitely one can always expect some great collabos. I’m currently working on a track with Qonja (Samuele) at the moment.
TN: Anything you would like to add?
ES: I think we should always celebrate our Namibian independence and honour the people that sacrificed their lives for the freedom we have today. One of the many ways to show your respect to our freedom fighters is to try to continuously improve the well-being of our country and keeping it