The Lion that is Namibia
In fact, it’s not about one boy growing up in the south, herding cattle and goats, but about a generation growing up during troubled times when mothers had to find work as nannies while their kids were left in the care of baby keepers.
The 70-minute musical, using visual art, live performances and videos to capture all the action, opens with Jackson’s mother talking about a certain incident in her son’s early life.
Her wrinkled aged face is the face of any African mother and what she says about her son is what any proud mother would say about a successful son.
Then comes Jackson to translate what his mother had said. It’s about his growing up and being looked after by a baby keeper, he says, and one day she returned from work and found him about to swallow sand.
“Do not think that my voice is gravelly because of this incident,” Jackson says. “All the Kaujeuas had voices like mine.”
The action begins with his mother singing a lullaby ‘ Ti Mama (I want to see my mother) ‘ that has the chord of a moving train. Here the choir comes in two lines like a railway track singing the beautiful song.
The train movements could symbolise the coming of the settlers in this land between two deserts.
A young boy ‘ apparently a cattle herder ‘ rushes onto the stage (probably a young Jackson), but his voice is drowned out by the choir.
And Jackson takes over with his acoustic guitar and explains how he was influenced by traditional and gospel music. The two scenes that follow capture the time when he was finding his feet.
To the accompaniment of the accordion and guitar, Jackson takes people down memory lane singing the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
From those early beginnings, Jackson retraces his footsteps to Windhoek’s Old Location where he latched onto jazz music.
Here the 60s scene is captured by colourfully dressed dancers in both Nama and Damara attire.
When the situation in the country forces him to leave, Jackson finds himself in Oxford, England, where the scene in the musical is shown by a bed and a microphone. The bare bed could symbolise the emptiness exiles experienced and for Jackson, the prescient speech by Harold McMillan ‘ the former British Prime Minister ‘ about “winds of change sweeping across Africa” became a source of hope and freedom. This brought about the song “The Wind of Change” that made him very popular.
To be part of this freedom, he travels to Angola where he composes the song “Mama Africa” during his stay in a refugee camp. The song is dedicated to the then Frontline States which provided military and moral assistance to freedom fighters from fellow Southern African countries still under the colonial yoke.
One of the musical’s greatest moments is when Jackson sings Miriam Makeba’s song “Pata Pata” and does the famous bump jive with one of the most talented girls who helps him tell his story.
He also talks about his stay in Manhattan in the heart of New York when that part of the US blackened out resulting in him composing the song “Blacker Blues”. Then there is his stay in Stockholm, Sweden when he hears about the implementation of the United Nations Resolution 435.
This inspired the song !nubu !nubus (My Round One) in apparent reference to the round-shaped women found in the south. He could also have been talking about Namibia.
The musical ends with the face of his mother waving and clapping hands. It’s what the audience take home.
This is the second time Jackson is telling his story after the autobiography ‘ Tear Over the Desert ‘ but what is missing from the Lion’s Roar is a father figure and Jackson’s love life. Does it mean that Jackson never loved? Never had a childhood sweetheart? Never experienced heartbreak? And where are his children?
While every effort seems to have been made to say as much as possible, Jackson’s journey does not have intimate moments that have otherwise not been told.
This certainly was not a roar but a straight story of a Namibian boy who grew up to be something else. ‘ NAMPA.