New Era Weekend spoke to the young and local award winning actress, Nelago Gloria Shilongoh, to find out what she’s been up to, to ask about her achievements, as well as her experiences onstage.
NW: Tell us more about what have been your achievements in the theatre industry so far?
Gloria: I’ve gained considerable experience in the theatre industry, worked with some of Namibia’s biggest directors and theatre performers. I won the award for Best Female Actor in the 2014 Namibian Film and Theatre Awards for my lead role in ‘The Lesson’, an absurd play written by Eugene Ionesco and directed by Sandy Rudd. My daily achievement is that I continue to challenge myself and grow, grow, grow!
Where do you draw inspiration from?
My inspiration starts from home, with my mother and grandmother holding the ground on which I have developed my interest and passion for telling stories. I study works by various African artists and thinkers. Inspiration also comes from everyday life, conversations and the extraordinary people I meet on a daily basis. It’s the simple things that make the greats. So I try to make it a habit to be aware of what is happening around me and use those experiences as reference.
Tell us more about your own plays and your roles in different plays?
My debut as solo playwright was in ‘Broken Butterflies’, a play that I directed as well, under the mentorship of local theatre maker Blessing Mbonambi. This was staged at the NTN Backstage Theatre in October 2012. My second independent work is ‘Kuku’, a one-woman play that I first developed in 2015 with the Kaleni Theatre Lab. The play was first staged at the Under The Trees production in October 2015 at the Parliament Gardens, then restaged at the Theatre School in earlier this month.
What are you working on this year? And what are we expecting from you before end of the year?
I recently directed a play, ‘Dutchman’, written by the great Amiri Baraka, which was staged at the Unam Space Theatre in April. I plan on restaging this production closer to the end of the year in Windhoek. Running ‘Kuku’ for the rest of the year is in the planning, as well.
You are one of the actors who have been selected to act in ‘Nothing But The Truth’ which will be staged at the National Theatre of Namibia (NTN) from Thursday until Saturday, can you tell us more about this and how you were chosen, plus your role?
‘Nothing But The Truth’ is a rich and challenging play written by John Kani. It is set in South Africa and deals with some realities of the post-apartheid society, a story very relevant to the Namibian context too. It especially confronts the meaning of life in a society emerging from apartheid with fresh wounds and unfinished business. The story is presented by following the history of an ordinary black family tackling past issues, whilst at the same time, trying to move forward towards a better and healthier future. I auditioned and got the role of Thando Makhaya, a challenging one I must admit. For me, this play presses buttons, even those that are very personal. It is a play that addresses difficult questions about the value of the life, struggles, and the delivery in truth and justice after the apartheid experience.
What are your challenges in the play industry?
The theatre industry is not as inclusive as it should to be, especially for audiences. It is generally an elite culture for a particular class and group of people. It is also very centralized, and I am not so sure that there is a lot of theatre happening in the different corners of the country. I understand why this is the case sometimes, as there are priorities far from theatre for many people. There are other things to be concerned about when one is unemployed and hungry.
On the artists side, I feel that the financial anxieties in the industry inhibit the growth of theatre in the country altogether. It is difficult to make theatre when one has very little support and the necessary resources to make things happen. I would say it takes strong, fully committed theatre makers and institutions to take theatre to the people and encourage the culture of storytelling, story sharing and story devising in our communities.
Can you tell us more about your education background?
I make sure to partake in various skills developing programmes, and I am currently busy with my Honours in Drama Studies & Visual Culture at the University of Namibia.