Swakopmund’s super talent is barely taller than his instrument - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

COVID-19. Status quo in Namibia.

It is with regret that Gondwana Collection Namibia has learnt that the COVID-19 virus has reached Namibia. On 14 March 2020, President Hage Geingob confirmed the first two cases. On 17 March, the President declared a state of emergency.

On 24 March 2020, the additional measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak have been announced. They include a lockdown of the Khomas and Eronogo regions from 27 March until 16 April 2020. For regulations and guidelines please click here

Gondwana is fully aware of the current situation and continues to monitor the spread of the virus and the resulting changes to our industry. In view of the state of emergency and the additional measures ordered by the government, employees at Gondwana House in Windhoek will be working from home. Due to international and regional travel restrictions Gondwana has reduced its operations at the lodges as far as possible. Most employees have been sent home, at full pay. 

The Ministry of Health has made availability for a toll-free phone number within Namibia for queries with regards to COVID-19. The toll-free number is 800-100-100 or alternatively 911.

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Swakopmund’s super talent is barely taller than his instrument

Avatar of inke inke - 21. December 2018 - Culture, Gondwana Collection

Kati with his very own bongo drum. (Photo: Gondwana Collection)

Kirsten Kraft

Kati places both his hands onto the hard-stretched skin of the bongo drum. Energetically, the knuckly part of his palm touches the edge of the drum, effortlessly his fingers follow, bouncing off the head. In alternation of thumb and fingertips he makes a gentle sound, changing to a faster tempo, creating a rhythmic liveliness. His enthusiasm is evident. Kati is five years old and barely taller than his instrument.

The Kuwaiti graffiti superstar, Mo Starr, discovered this young bongosero in Mondesa, a district of Swakopmund, during a ‘celebration of colour’ journey powered by Gondwana Collection Namibia. Gondwana shared the talent of this musical gem in a short video on Internet. More than 63,000 followers have since seen the young talent on YouTube and some commented on the video.

“Africa’s got talent!” Naneva Wave writes. “All we need is the opportunity to organise ourselves and show the world what Africa’s really got.”

“Fellow Namibians, we can discover more people like this, it doesn't have to be a foreigner investing. If we can stop investing on the ’talented’ shebeen owners every Friday,” Kaiho Rikambura notes.

“So sad it takes outsiders to sport the talented children in our impoverished community,” Verie Kasume comments. “Discovering him was done. What do we do now to sharpen his talent? How do we help him to reach high heights? Getting a drum alone is not enough. As a community or a nation we need to take it from that point. What’s next, Namibia? Are we going to watch him do it on the street until his dream fades away?”

David Du Toit follows that he should be introduced to a music teacher.

Kati and his mother, Debora, proudly present his new uniform jacket. He is now one of them! (Photo: Kirsten Kraft) | Kati has been playing the bongo for a mere one and a half years. (Photo: private)

But what does Kati really need? He can play the drums, no question, but drumming and singing alone won’t do it. 

"He is a clever fellow, yet way behind," declares Joel Nambuli. Joel is a teacher at the Mondesa Youth Opportunities Centre, a school for gifted and talented children. Joel also offers bongo lessons at three different crèches. He is a good friend of Kati’s family, however as a teacher, he warns against too much hype. "Suddenly everybody scrambles for that boy; we see something in him that he did not yet see himself," Joel says. "We, as adults, have to be careful not to hurt his little soul. The boy needs basic education and not fame.” Kati turned six on 3 November 2018, and until now had never attended a kindergarten and had no pre-school knowledge.

With his mother, Debora ,and his little sister, Tasha, ‘Mondesa’s super talent’ lives in the house of his aunt and uncle, a place no bigger than a double garage. Ten people reside here in poverty. The water bill is unpaid and therefore the water supply has been cut. Uncle Egelhard is the only person in the house who receives a salary. Aunt Evelyne receives some pocket money through manicure and hair braiding. The remaining residents are either children or unemployed. Kati's father lives in Harare, Zimbabwe. He, too, does not seem to earn much as there is no financial support coming from his side.

"If we really want to help him, we should do it now," says Hilda Meyer, owner of Learning Right Kiddies Centre. She knows Kati and his family. "The boy is a talented bongo player, but he lacks basic knowledge."

Attending Learning Right Kiddies Centre would be Kati’s chance. Here the tutors don’t just teach the curriculum but the whole child. "We work on the senses, simultaneously intellectual understanding takes place at the same time the English language is taught." Kati does not have that knowledge yet. "He's a little boy in the middle of confusion, if I may say so."

Hilde Meyer's kindergarten does not comply with the prescribed education plan. "When we teach the child, we follow the basic principles of Dr Ing Melodie de Jager," emphasises Hilda. De Jager is a qualified nursery school graduate, who has a Master’s Degree in Science and Mathematics and a PhD on the role of neurological integration in the learning process.

Behind the large sliding gate of Learning Right Kiddies Centre, across Swakopmund Spar, lies a children's paradise. Nearly 100 children between the ages of two and six are enrolled at this day care centre, which is open from seven in the morning until after five in the evening. Here, children are offered many opportunities to gain emotional maturity. Breakfast, snacks and lunch are prepared by the in-house cook, Jacki, and her helper, Rosi. Some ingredients come from the centre’s own garden, which the children help to plant and take care of. In addition to the normal classes, in which gross and fine motor skills are taught, the centre also offers nature education and introduces the children to chess and music.

It would be an ideal opportunity for Kati, but the fees have to be considered. N$1,700 per month for half day and N$2,400 for full day. This is an amount which his unemployed mother cannot afford.

Twice a week Joel Nambuli holds music lessons at the centre. Kati (bongo drummer, right) is now part of the team. (Photo: Kirsten Kraft)

Will everything just remain a dream, diminishing over night? 

“No,” says Gondwana Collection Namibia. The Gondwana Care Trust, which already supports different projects across Namibia, immediately decided to pave the way for Kati's education. He is now attending Learning Right and the Care Trust takes care of the financial costs. 

"His first day was a little hectic,” Hilda Meyer reports. “He didn’t know the routine yet and left the classroom whenever it suited him. But after three days he had settled in and now understands that joining is for his own good. "

Maybe Kati will not be the best bongo drummer in the world but with the right financial support and an educational path, we can help this little boy to become the best for this world. 

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