By Jeoffrey Mukubi
ANTI-APARTHEID icon Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo is widely known as a former Robben Island prisoner and activist, but little has been said over the years about his influence on the revolutionary music that inspired many Namibians during the darkest days of apartheid.
This week, following his death in Windhoek last Friday, the Ndilimani Cultural Troupe, as well as Ras Sheehama, who were at the forefront of the revolutionary music that swept across Namibia during the apartheid era, paid tribute to Ya Toivo as an inspiration.It also emerged that during his tenure as Swapo Secretary-General, from 1984 to 1991, Ya Toivo had been tasked to approach the then Congolese government, in order to secureCentral African musical instructors, who ultimately shaped the Ndilimani Cultural Troupe, in terms of its Kwasa Kwasa style. This culminated in Congolese musical instructors Dr Francois Haipinge ‘Papa Francois’ Tsoubaloko, Roger Ngoma and others being sent down to Angola to work with Ndilimani.
Ndilimani Cultural Troupe Manager, Jessy Nombanza, said this week that Ya Toivo had played a crucial role in encouraging and motivating the group, which was formed at Lubango in 1980, under the name Young Generation.
“I personally met him back in 1986, when I became a member. Not only was he a leader, but he was also a friend and father figure,” Nombanza said of Ya Toivo.
“He was a man of courage – physically, mentally and even spiritually.”
Nombanza said that they had found inspiration in Ya Toivo’s words that, “the struggle will be long and bitter”.
He said Ndilimani had found comfort in this realisation and were inspired to continue their mission.
“We have lost one of Namibia’s great pillars, and a source of courage, and he will be missed a lot,” added Nombanza.
“We pray that God provides strength to his family and that they accept this loss, and that they are comforted, as they look to the future.”
Nombanza said that the Ndilimani Cultural Troupe will contribute the sound system for the upcoming main memorial service for Ya Toivo, and will also perform revolutionary songs in his memory.
Revolutionary icons, such as Ya Toivo,as well as musical artists,were a major source of inspiration during apartheid, especially while the liberation war was being fought in exile.The aim of Ndilimani was to mobilise the masses through song and dance, in order for them to rally behind Swapo and its military wing, PLAN. Entertaining the troops at the PLAN camps was also another function of the troupe.
Ndilimani band members also travelled throughout the world, including to the then Soviet Union, Germany, Holland, Norway, the United States of America, Ghana, Zambia and Libya, to highlight the struggle back home.
In 1989, Ndilimani returned home and were amongst the first groups to perform during the 1990 Swapo election campaign.
Among the other liberation artists who heaped praise on Ya Toivo this week was Ras Sheehama, who is also a former Ndilimani member.
He paid homage to Ya Toivo, by saying that his death is a great loss for the Namibian nation.“I know him as a very soft-spoken man. He was different from other Swapo leaders, and I could speak to him freely, without any restrictions,” Sheehama said, before adding that YaToivo was “a man of the people”.
John Muafagenjo Arts Centre project manager Jacques Mushaanja said Ya Toivo was a “rebellious soul”.
“He was a fighter for freedom and his liberation struggle archive will continue to live on; he will always be remembered for his service.” Lize Ehlers, who mentioned that her family was close to Ya Toivo, said that their flag is flying at half-mast at their home, to pay tribute to the icon. “I really think that he is definitely one of the founders of this nation, and he remains prolific in our hearts,” Ehlers said. “We spent a holiday by the river with him, and had many conversations, and that’s when I realised that he was a just and mighty man.”
Papa Shikongeni, an acclaimed visual artist and musician, was sentimental when he told Confidente, “It was a privilege for me to meet and be with Ya Toivo at his 90th birthday celebration. It is at that time that I realised that he was a simple and humble man.
“He was always thinking about his people, and I could sense that he was disappointed at the fact that the struggle did not bear fruit for everyone in the country.”
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015