There is no way that you will talk about news anchors and TV commentators in Namibia without mentioning Norah Nolene Appolus, to a point where she is so passionate about her craft that she booted a news anchor aspirant in an audition for saying “the drota”, instead of the drought.
She was busy with try-outs when an applicant uttered something she would never expect from an anchor. “I was doing auditions for television news and this candidate, oozing self-confidence, started reading, and horror of horrors, she read a story on drought and says “the drota”. Now, what would you have me do? Well, needless to say, I sent her packing. I’m just passionate about maintaining high standards and will not countenance sub-standard work or effort. If that makes me a bully, then so be it,” she confidently shared.
Some say she is a bully when it comes to the newsroom, but all she aims for is instilling perfection in journalists. “Me, a bully? Where do you get that from? Well, maybe I do kind of shoot from the hip, but it irks me when people don’t know their own limitations, are sloppy in their work and service delivery and downright incompetent and waste my time - and theirs,” explained Norah, further saying
she loves the way she is and her children, friends and family adore her that way.
Boiling with passion
She recalled: “The night I was informed my mother had died, I was scheduled to go to work to produce and present the early morning shift at 03h00. My fascist boss told me to go to work anyway, even though I was in no emotional state to do so. I dutifully complied. Thankfully, my co-producer and colleague told me to go home. The next day the union called for action to be taken against my boss or else RFI would be brought to a standstill! That’s solidarity for you - and compassion!”
The show must continue in the world of journalism, even if you have overindulged with your favourite drink and need to report for duty the following day, there is no such thing as being hangover.
“Babalaaz? What language is that? Please speak English. Under the weather? I wouldn’t let illness stop me from going to work, especially to anchor the news. The show must go on,” firmly and hilariously put Norah.
Born in the //Kharas region city of Keetmanshoop to a mother who was a nurse and father a journalist in the 1950s, the outspoken anchor almost lived a life of a nomad, constantly moving from one place to the next.
“I grew up in Keetmanshoop and then Windhoek up to the age of six. I then went to Tanganyika (now Tanzania) via Congo’s Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi) in Katanga province (DRC) and we finally ended up in Zambia, those were now the best years of my life.”
Zambia and everything about the south central African country holds a special place in her and will forever do.
Having experienced continental cuisines and sceneries, Norah is still keen on travelling and her favourite destination countries right now would be the Kingdom of Morocco and South Africa although she loves France.
“Abroad? Nothing beats my beloved Paris! Cape Town, Luanda, Algiers and Marrakech come a close second. But first, I love the mighty north (Ondangwa, Oshakati, Oshikango)! It is vibrant and brimming with life! I think I’m retiring there!”
Growing up Norah
“I would say my brothers and I had a very cosmopolitan upbringing. It was heavily influenced by the various cultures, languages and environments that we found ourselves in at that given moment.”
She believes her type of upbringing would be termed as “metro”. “I can certainly fit anywhere, anyplace. However, our upbringing was a bit wanting in terms of our own culture and language, not in any deliberate way but simply because my sainted mother was the breadwinner and she was at work the whole day so the nannies filled in.”
Later, when Norah and her siblings went to local boarding schools, the environment naturally influenced them. “We are eternally grateful for the upbringing we had because it has made us tolerant and appreciative of all cultures and people.”
The once married grandmother of television and forever young at heart said she is still energetic, feisty and ready to take on the world.
Which local language does Norah speak?
The topic of language, pride and association habitually appears on social media with users bashing those who can’t speak their mother tongue. I am sure it has come across your mind how you have probably never heard a black woman, speaking English so eloquently and not speaking any Namibian indigenous languages. She will not be blamed for this, what do you expect from a person who has lived her whole her life, close to three decades if not more, in different places.
“Well, you would certainly be able to skinner (gossip) about me in any local language. Having being brought up in exile from a very young age and returning at a ripe old age, it’s kind of understandable that I don’t speak any local language, isn’t it? I make no apologies. I sometimes get people who come up to me and say “matisa?” and when I politely tell them I don’t speak the language they look at me as though I’m trying to be “better off”.”
Being a journalist especially can expose one to a lot of opportunities. Television enables anchors to have interviews with the who’s who and shift makers from different parts of the world and Norah has a wealth of interviews she considers as impact and treasurable and some not so much.
“The most memorable interviews I have include former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, the late South African President Nelson Mandela, Ben Mkapa (former Tanzanian President), ANC President Oliver Tambo and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Interviewing Rudolph Nureyev and Jessye Norman was embarrassing: I was completely star-struck, Imagine me star struck! Harry Belafonte and Whoopi Goldberg we’re pretty cool,” she shared.
Unwinding with Norah
In her free time and away from work as a part-time media consultant in newsrooms, Norah loves reading. “Reading is an all-time favourite, painting, writing and keeping abreast of current affairs and politics. I love writing, I am inquisitive, tenacious and curious by nature and it was a natural career choice.”
With friendship, she has a tight circle of friends in the country that she touches base with every day, including her two adored brothers. “Only about people, but boy, do they bring joy into my life! I also have a close circle of friends outside the country whom I’ve known forever and a day. Some of them since primary school, would you believe? We’re as tight as closed oyster shells! We talk every day!! Thank you, WhatsApp!! How did we ever live before the advent of WhatsApp?”
Drinks are served
“I love my sparkling water, and my vodka too - but I refuse to drink any but the best and of course, my bubbly - Veuve or Moët if you please! I enjoy good red wine with a good gourmet meal. Does anybody want to help a sister out in these harrowing days of Covid-19? Much appreciated. Drop it off at New Era! Why? Because I like the drinks,” chuckled Norah.
Food for thought
Being so long in the industry, one would expect her to have a lot to say when it comes to those following in her footsteps but Norah said no one should be doing that.
“Don’t follow in my footsteps or anyone else’s steps. Carve out your own path and footsteps, however, seek mentors and those who can help you on the way up.”
She furthermore urged reading as being one of the best qualities ambitious youths should possess to excel in being a journalist/anchor. “Complete your education, read, read, read. Write, learn how to speak correctly with the right inflexions, pitch, keep informed on current affairs, especially politics
(politics is life), and tell the story.”