European premiere of Namibia’s first opera – Chief Hijangua in Berlin

The dramatic on-stage performances will be presented in the Großer Sendesaal im Haus des Rundfunks from September 15 to 17, 2023


  • Team of artists from Namibia, Germany, and South Africa
  • This international project is supported by the Siemens Arts Program and the Lotto Stiftung Berlin
  • With the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB) under the direction of Eslon Vakomboka Hindundu
  • Composer: Eslon Vakomboka Hindundu, librettist: Nikolaus Frei, director: Kim Mira Meyer with co-director Micheal Pulse 
  • Recorded by Deutschlandradio: broadcast on September 23
  • Ticket sale under:

It started with a friendship during the 2019 Immling Opera Festival in Bad Endorf when stage manager Kim Mira Meyer from Munich, Germany and choir director and singer Eslon Vakomboka Hindundu from Windhoek, Namibia met for the first time. They bounced a lot of ideas off each other, and one of them stuck. They wanted to work together (he as composer and she as director) to create the first Namibian-German opera with the colonial history as one of its narratives. This was followed by countless Zoom calls, visits to Windhoek, return visits to Munich, and all of it in the midst of the pandemic. After three years of preparation, the opera called Chief Hijangua celebrated its world premiere in Windhoek in the fall of 2022 with more than 100 participants. Development of the creative staging concept involved Namibian-German teams from many fields such as stage design, direction and production working across multiple national borders – literally a collective of artists intent on making cultural exchange and integration of the different Namibian cultures fundamental elements of the artistic process. Director Kim Mira Meyer explained it this way: “It’s such a great honor to work so closely with people from different countries and backgrounds. Every bit of research and preparation and every rehearsal brought us a step closer to executing our project. Every prop and every costume detail has a cultural significance which we want to convey and which is an important part of this total work of art.”

Namibian history, traditional songs, rhythms and folklore

With this opera, Herero composer Eslon Vakomboka Hindundu and German historian and librettist Nikolaus Frei aim to shed light on and lead to a better understanding of the shared history between Namibia and Germany during the colonial period.

The opera is sung in Otjiherero – one of Namibia’s national languages – and in German with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin performing, conducted by composer Hindundu. As Hindundu explained: “This opera tells and retains important elements of Namibian history, traditional songs, rhythms and folklore, thereby preserving these important Namibian records for present and future generations.” Librettist Frei added: “The story of the opera is an allegory of colonialism itself and is also inspired by specific historic events in Namibia in the 19th century. The stage setting and costume design use traditional as well as contemporary Namibian and European elements from fields such as architecture, fashion and makeup artistry with Afrofuturistic elements also reflected in the design.

Thanks to early support by the Siemens Arts Program, the world premiere took place in the National Theatre of Namibia on September 8, 2022. The Siemens Arts Program has been a sponsor of this project since 2021: “The Opera Namibia project is a labor of love for the Siemens Arts Program,” said project manager Anke Bobel. “That’s why we’re not only offering financial assistance, but also supporting the artists by providing our management know-how for the opera project. The immense creativity and collective approach across continents won us over from the very beginning.”

The European premiere of Chief Hijangua will be presented in Berlin at the Großer Sendesaal im Haus des Rundfunks in Berlin on September 15.

Collaborative ventures with the RSB and the Dekoloniale Festival 2023

The venerable Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin is looking forward to celebrating its 100th anniversary in the fall of 2023. The opera Chief Hijangua will take a special place in the repertoire of the 2023/2024 anniversary season. RSB General Manager Clara Marrero explained: “The idea for this collaborative venture came from the orchestra itself, and the enthusiasm of the musicians set us all on fire! This opera shows wonderfully how we can engage music to tell und understand our history, paint visions of the future and learn from each other. There are so many different styles of music and young artists around the world who bring in their very own esthetics. To be open to this diversity and continue to grow is important to us as an orchestra, and that’s why this project is so close to our heart.”

Chief Hijangua opens a window into the country’s dark history while at the same time aiming to contribute to collaborative projects in the arts that span multiple countries. The operatic team plans to perform the production in other German cities in 2024 and bring it back to Namibia in 2025.

As part of the collaboration with the memory culture pilot project “Dekoloniale – Memory Culture in the City” in Berlin, the premiere performance on September 15 will be included in the evening program of the Dekoloniale Festival 2023. Festival director Nadja Ofuatey-Alazard put it this way: “We will enhance the Berlin performance with a critical perspective of colonialism and racism. Comprehensive learning processes are needed if transnational collaborative efforts are to succeed, especially in difficult historical contexts.


For more information, see:

Team & Soloists

Eslon Vakomboka Hindundu (composer and musical director)
Kim Mira Meyer (opera direction)
Micheal Pulse (co-direction)
Nikolaus Frei (libretto)
Felicia Riegel und Tanya Turipamwe Stroh (stage design)
Twapewa Amutenya und Naomi Nambinga (costume design)
Gretl Kautzsch (puppet design)
Isabel Katjavivi (installation)

Sakhiwe Mkosana (Hijangua)
Janice van Rooy (Matijua)
Monde Masimini (Hangane)
Galilei Njembo (Nguti)
Rheinaldt Moagi (Major)
Yonwaba Mbo (Pastor)
Natasha Ndjiharine (Maria)

Producers: Kim Mira Meyer, Anja Panitz

Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Vox Vitae Singers (choir director: Eslon Hindundu)
Cantus Domus (choir director: Ralf Sochaczewsky)

About the Siemens Arts Program

The Siemens Arts Program is active in the fields of music, the visual arts and cultural education and sees itself as a creative platform for corporate arts and cultural projects. One of the program’s priorities is to support outstanding young artists all around the world. This is achieved through young talent competitions initiated as part of the program and by providing young talents with an introduction to established international cultural institutions (Bavarian State Opera, Carnegie Hall New York, Salzburg Festival, International ARD Music Competition). For more information about the Siemens Arts Program, go to:

Foto: Siemens Arts Program
To the overview