An evening of African culture will be centre stage at Powell River’s Max Cameron Theatre on Saturday, October 28. Out of Africa Variety Show is a cultural exchange starring Namibia’s Nelson Nagenda.
Nagenda is from the small southern town of Keetmanshoop, which has about the same population as Powell River.
Audiences that attended the International Choral Kathaumixw concert on his first visit to Powell River in 2014 will remember Nagenda’s appearance and his exquisite voice as a guest soloist with Edmonton’s Kokopelli Choir, one of the featured choirs at the festival.
It was then that Nagenda met Rick Hopper’s family.
“We befriended him,” said Hopper. “We just got along really well, so we invited him to come back that first Christmas because he had nowhere to celebrate a traditional Canadian Christmas in Edmonton that year.”
Nagenda has since transplanted from Edmonton to Powell River and, while on a visitor’s visa, volunteers his time to youth choirs at Powell River Academy of Music and Brooks Secondary School.
“Nelson uses the medium of music to teach students about cultural diversity,” said School District 47 superintendent Jay Yule. “Music provides the physical as well as theoretical learning that engages students.”
Nagenda said he is having fun and students are enjoying themselves. Sharing his culture with them is an honour, he added.
At first, Nagenda said students were somewhat intimidated by his unfamiliar African culture. He broke through with the universal language of music and soon had everyone singing and dancing to the songs from his community.
The biggest difference with Namibia that Nagenda has seen in Canada is in education.
“Powell River is definitely very advanced and very accessible to kids here,” said Nagenda, who speaks five languages.
In Namibia, a sparsely populated country on Africa’s southwest coast where agriculture and mineral extraction, including diamond mining, drive the economy, children have a different role in the community than here.
Nagenda said children often do not have the opportunity to go to school until they are teenagers and old enough to make their own decisions.
In Powell River, he said he has felt very welcome.
“The Powell River community has been so tremendously kind, very accepting and so inclusive,” said Nagenda. “I just love the culture here.”
Out of Africa Variety Show is a fundraiser and tickets are available at Taws, Anderson’s Men’s wear and River City Coffee.
“It is for the Out of Africa Choir program that we’ll be delivering to elementary schools in the district,” said Hopper.
The evening program features about 12 acts, including music academy director Walter Martella, academy instructor Megan Skidmore and Hopper’s son Jeremy, a musical theatre performer.
Nagenda has also assembled a mass choir of voices from the music academy, the community and Brooks Secondary School.