The Namibian entertainment scene is hot right with a music album and a series of home produced short films, featuring two self-taught actor-cum-musicians slash producers who go by the names of The Chameleon and The Rat. And no, it is not a joke. We did not make that up, seriously.
They literally chose those names for themselves as their stage names, and like being called that. They have no qualms about it. The Chameleon and The Rat. They even go so far as to groom themselves in a manner that fits their names.
Yet weird as it sounds, the two gentlemen are in such demand, especially within the informal / underground, amateur homemade films scene, that they had to relocate from the northern region, where their base has always been, to Windhoek. It is a bold move for a duo act whose material is in Oshiwambo, with no English subtitles to appeal to non-Oshiwambo speakers.
They sell as much as 1,000 copies of each of their amateur DVDs, and get good sales from their music album too. If you frequent any shebeen or use public transport, there is a chance that two thirds of the tracks played are from their album.
“People use to laugh at us and we didn’t have enough money to fund our project,” says The Rat. So they came to where the money is.
The move to Windhoek is also, in part, motivated by the fact that the person who assists them with production moved to Windhoek, and they needed his input.
They started a partnership in 2014, forming a music and film production closed corporation that produced homemade amateur DVD’s and music. Their homemade videos went viral on social media.
“So we started selling the CDs and DVDs by foot on streets and to people that we know,” says The Rat.
But back to their names, the very purpose of this prose. We translated their names for the English readers: The Chameleon and The Rat. In Oshiwambo they are ‘Fimbiko’ (The Chameleon) and Mbuku (The Rat).
Two earthly animals not everyone would easily want to associate with. Especially the rodent of the two. At least the tree dwelling lizard is a fascinating species.
The Rat (Mbuku)’s real name is Niinyandu Seblon and was born in 1985 in Ondangwa. The Chameleon (Fimbiko)’s real name Mathew Shipushu and was born in Lüderitz in 1992.
Seblon (The Rat) and Shipushu (The Chameleon) met in 2013 by chance. Before that The Chameleon had been cast in amateur Oshiwambo movies produced by home filmmaker Jekonia Akuunda.
Even though they are of very poor visual and audio quality, these home made films attracted such a huge following that Akuunda at one point drove to the coastal towns, arriving at one of the open markets, police in tow, with the aim of confiscating all pirated DVD’s of his amateur production series.
At another point police in the northern regions had to stop Akuunda from conducting an illegal search and seizure in the northern open markets. The markets were so full of pirated copies of his DVD’s that no one was buying his originals. But Akuunda wanted to specifically target foreigners selling at open markets because he believed they are the mastermind behind the copying and selling of the pirated DVD’s.
The Chameleon has been a cast member since 2005. “Akuunda is the one who gave me a talent and taught me how to do acting,” says The Chameleon, adding that at that time he was very young, aged 16.
“My mom was very supportive, especially when she find out about my talent and passion. She encouraged me to go for what my heart desires,” says The Chameleon. He went solo in 2013, performing for audiences at traditional events in the northern regions.
The Rat on the other hand was just finding his feet in the music industry. He has only managed to release a single, which did not do that well, although did receive some airplay on several language radio stations.