I was born in Windhoek and always had an interest in colours, movement, books and of course – the stage. I have to say that my biggest influence is my mother, an avid traveler who had been all over Africa in the 80s and 90s. She would sit me down to tell me stories about the places she had been, the things she had seen and struggles she experienced. Those captivating stories were told over good food and music. My mother is a funny person and there was always a performance to receive in our home.
I knew for sure that I wanted to do theatre the first time I saw a play at the National Theatre of Namibia (NTN), in early primary school. It was The Hot Micado, adapted and directed by Sandy Rudd, starring Sascha Olivier-Sampson (now a dance lecturer), with music by Bonny Pereko and a few others. I was blown away and went to bed that night with a decision made.
My devotion to storytelling and performance was driven passionately throughout my school years. I went from starring as David the shepherd in Christmas plays, to playing a creepy troll in the Hobbit. In 11th grade at high school, an English teacher encouraged me to join an arts holiday project called ArtBeat, initiated by the NTN. This is where I received my initial training in Youth Theatre. I performed in ArtBeat for about two years. This is where I met Lucky Pieters, a Namibian veteran actor who trained me well in the acting discipline. Projects in Zimbabwe have offered me further intensive training and I am now studying for my Honours in Drama at the University of Namibia (UNAM).
My experience and journey in theatre has been amazing so far. I’ve gone on to extend my art for social change and development alongside performing in many productions at UNAM such as 39 Steps, a popular Sophiatown musical directed by Sepiso Mwange. My directorial debut Broken Butterflies, which I wrote and directed in 2012 under the mentorship of Blessing Mbonambi was nominated in the Namibian Film and Theatre Awards in the category for Best Female Role. I was also awarded the Best Theatre Actress Award, in the 2014 Namibian Film and Theatre Awards for the role of the Pupil that I played in The Lesson, directed by Sandy Rudd.
I must say that I do not regret the decision I took on that Hot Micado night. Theatre means everything to me. I develop myself and others best through it and plan on exercising that for the rest of my days.
Nelago Gloria Shilongoh is a Namibian theatre practitioner currently based in Windhoek. Click here to see her latest appearance in an advertisement for MTC.