It’s been said that the only thing worse than an injustice, is seeing an injustice and keeping quiet about it. In South Africa, for example, when people are unhappy about something (even if it’s wrongfully so) they toyi toyi, they burn tires, they break windows… In some way, you will know the nation is angry.
In Namibia? If (because the truth is, I’m not sure if my people could be bothered, about anything, at all) they have a problem with something, they turn a blind eye. Probably thinking as long as it doesn’t directly affect them, it is none of their business. I’ve always known this about the Namibian nation, and it’s always annoyed me, but not as much as it did a couple of weeks ago.
There’s a character who fancies himself a “comedian” and in his comedy he jokes about petty crime as well as beating up women. Naturally, we felt it was our duty to speak up against it. In a bid to be objective and give him a chance to give his side of the story, I attempted to have an interview with this “comedian”, who calls himself ‘The Real Shebeleza’ and below, I share how that went.
You have undeniable talent and creativity and there are so many things you could get the material for your “comedy” from, why did you choose this particular issue?
I chose to do my comedy strictly kasie, because that’s where it all began and so I decided to keep it real and stick to what I know rather than talking about things that I never experienced in life. I am one of those few people who look at life the way I see it and the way it is, and not the way I want to see it or other people want me to see it, and I think that is the reason why I touched so much people because I tell people things the way they are, I don’t add or subtract to please some and live others behind, in the kasie we call it a “stryt glamo” and it means, it is what it is and what be must be.
What do you think sets you apart as a comedian?
I grew up in different places and met allot of different people in my life, so I have learned different life styles and know how different people behave, that gives me an advantage as a comedian because it does not matter who you are, once I open my mouth you will always relate to what I am talking about, but I think what makes me stand out the most is being realistic and putting some action into the comedy world, I think the other comedians are scared to push their material to its limits, because they are scared of being looked at as people with dirty mouths but I will say what I want to say cause in the end whether you swear or not, it will still continue, go to khomasdal then you will see what I am talking about hahaha.
What influences you and what are the things that have had an impact in your life?
Every day to day issues influence me, apart from editing clips and making people laugh I also have a life like every other person and some of the things that I say in my clips are problems that I encounter in my life and my way of dealing with those problems is putting them in my clips and making fun of it as if its just a normal joke, it’s my way of adaptation to my problems. Secondly I grew up in a very violent location and the things that I saw and done in the past also influence me allot cause the past will always be with you no matter who you become at the end of the day and unfortunately my past is full of violence and struggling so I stick to what I know, I don’t copy and paste.
Considering what a big following you have, can you see how you could send out a different message to the youth?
Good one, I actually feel guilty for not putting age restrictions on my clips cause every kid in the kasi wants to be “shebeleza” the bad guy who talks what he wants. Its cool if you want to be shebeleza but there is one thing that you should bare in mind, there is no way you can do what I do without education, shebeleza is just a character but behind his voice is a very successful man in society, I finished school, I went to university, I own a job, have my own car and a comfortable life. Please don’t watch my clips if you are not 18 and older, focus on your books, these things are only for adults you guys are still in that stage of confusion, so just work hard in school and one day you will edit like me.
Why do you use a puppet in your clips?
I had to create a character, because if shebeleza becomes a human in society nobody will even want to sit at the same table with someone that talks like that. Narrow minded people have been telling me that I am spreading gender based violence and disrespecting women, but they lack the ability to differentiate between fiction and none fiction and it’s because of people that think like that, that entertainment in Namibia is so pathetic, i mean 70% of my followers on fb are women, so do you want to tell me that all those women are stupid and only one knows that I am spreading violence against women? I don’t think so . So don’t associate actors with the people that they are in real life, that’s why I use a puppet and not my own face, Namibians, Namibians we are in the 21st century now please start aging hahahah.
Can you think of at least 5 other things you could generate material for your comedy from?
Politics, tribes, alcohol and bars, drugs and narrow minded human beings, but in general I don’t just do shebeleza clips, I have a diversity of clips and some do not even swear at all, so in the end people must not jump to conclusion if they have not watched all of my clips and I always say “what you pick up in my clips and do with it, is simply who you are”.
Do you think it’s possible in Namibia to be funny without being offensive? Do you think we can make fun of politics in the same way South African comedians, for example, do?
Yes you can be funny without being offensive, but I am not a follower and I am not any other comedian, I have established my own style and I am going to keep it that way unless if the majority over rules that I am offensive, otherwise I won’t change my style just ’cause there is a small group of people who feel like that no. If you don’t like it don’t watch it in the first place cause you are not forced to do so. There are pornographic movies but not all of us watch it ’cause some of us enjoy it and some don’t enjoy it, the same applies. So for those that want to do comedy just get a style and keep it real like the real shebeleza (finish en kla).
Is comedy a sort of outlet for you? Is it your way of dealing with everyday life?
Yes, it helps me get stuff off my mind man, for instance if I am angry at my girlfriend I will just switch on my computer then I will talk bad about women who give their men problems rather then fashion killing my girlfriend like all the other guys who can not edit clips to take out their anger. So that’s why the clips have so much fun it’s cause it comes from real life situations, just look at it from the positive angle and you might just learn a few things in life.
Except for the money and fame that you may be getting, how do you think the Namibian nation benefits from you being a public figure?
If you listen carefully to my clips without the intention of only hearing the negative, you will realize that I am also a teacher, I teach people things about life in a funny way. That’s why allot of them will always say “daai man praat net die waarhied”, it’s just that for some the truth does not set them free so I don’t know what does, ja I am a bad teacher in a good way.
Do you think the nature and content of your comedy is able to open doors for you to bigger things and opportunities?
Absolutely, I get offers everyday, people want me to sign with them and stuff but I have decided to hold back and wait for the right time to finance my comedy and throw my own tour, I know the potential that I have and I am not a mineral, I will not allow investors to exploit me I will rather put an electric fence with magnetic doors around myself so people don’t exploit or pouch me and fill their stomachs with my sweat. One man jaive, is either you pay me in advance or you jump on one side, but ja I can go big with this and I am more than confident.
Can you understand why we (as NGOs) have an issue with what you do?
The question is, what do I do? And I do not see how I affect newly growing organisations. I think the reason why you are still growing and not grown yet is because you guys are always tackling problems where they are the least concentrated. If you want to change lives of people you work hard and you go out there and do it, you do not sit there and try and find someone to blame because of people’s lives that are not going well. I was born a long time ago and I found this world messed up already, people where swearing, killing, robbing, beating each other way before and till today, so for a person to tell me that I am creating problems in society it is totally off course, where do you leave the mugabes, the obamas, the pohambas, the corrupt officials. If you start there, you will solve your issues, you can’t pick on me I am still small for what I am being held accountable for. Many look up to me but I was never at that stage where I can make decisions for other people either than my child, so everyone is the way they chose to be, I do not choose for people. God must help those that does not understand the way I deliver my information.
So you know that the character portrayed by the puppet isn’t a good one, so why keep it? And we do see the positive in what you do, except seeing as your clips do not come with an age restriction, it’s very unlikely that a young boy will look at your clip and think “wow, I wanna be a graphic editor just like Shebeleza”, they are most likely to think “Kasi life is about violence and Shebeleza says it’s cool to hit women.” How do you think this solves the “problems of the Kasi”? Also, the fact that you have a lot of women followers does not make the message you’re sending out any less derogatory, maybe those women don’t see the harm in what you are doing, but we do… and that’s why we’ve spoken out. We are not saying you are spreading GBV, but that by trying to make it a laughable issue, you are certainly condoning it. Do you think it’s possible that your clips could convey the “successful and educated Shebeleza” who made it in life despite his circumstances, as opposed to Shebeleza the woman beater?
I do not admit anything about the puppet, the puppet is an actor and if you don’t know what actors do then I don’t know how I must explain it to you. Stop wasting your time with me, you have much more important things to look at like big brother stuff, the whole of Africa watch how people make fools of themselves by even sleeping together on national television now you tell me why you do not try and stand up and stop that, if you are so concerned about the effects that people can have on other people. All I can promise you is that I will put age restrictions on the clips but other than that I do not see any other thing that I have to change and please watch the clips and give me facts.
It’s not just the clips that are a problem Shebeleza, it’s your facebook posts as well, I will send examples. Also, you make a good point, there are bigger fish to fry out there in terms of public influence, but we work in the communities, we deal with the man on the street, and YOU have a direct influence on the man on the street, which is why we are addressing you and artists of similar influence.
I just posted (on Facebook) and asked all the people to tell me if I offend them in any kind of way and if they would prefer me to change my material or keep it original, so if I don’t get any complaints then this must be something personal, so let me see how people about my work.
And that’s how I lost that battle, and it’s a loss I felt to my core, too; because he did post on his facebook page asking if anyone is offended in anyway by any of his material, and not a single person had a problem with it. Hundreds of comments all saying how much they enjoy his stuff and how he should keep being himself, and it went on and on and on. It’s in that moment I realised that my battle shouldn’t even have been with Shebeleza or his followers in the first place, but with everyone else. Is it because there is no one who is bothered by his clips and posts? I can testify that they are there, they just choose to not be vocal about it, maybe because they feel it’s not their problem, or not their place to speak… In which case I honestly don’t know whose place it is. The attitude of complacence and nonchalance among the Namibian youth (especially) really frustrates me, because that means we are breeding an entire generation of people who cannot be bothered by what’s happening in the society around them, as long as it doesn’t affect them personally. And what that means, is that the only voices we continue to hear are those that think there is nothing wrong with laughing about rape, theft, domestic violence, street harassment and gender-based violence!