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Home / Jack of all trades: The life and times of remarkable artist Jack Francis

Jack of all trades: The life and times of remarkable artist Jack Francis

2023-08-18  Carlos Kambaekwa

Jack of all trades: The life and times of remarkable artist Jack Francis

The son of former footballer, the late Jack Francis senior, young Francis was destined for the big stage since his early days as a toddler, proudly following in his old man’s footsteps. His father played competitive football for Rookies Football Club. He tasted provincial club football when Rookies welcomed a team from South Africa in the mid-50s.

A dead-ball specialist, Francis snr was a devastating winger operating from the left flank and scoring many goals from set-pieces. Those in the know claim the old man was in the habit of scoring jaw-dropping goals from corner kicks, while he was also deadly in aerial battles.

Born on 2 May 1950 in Fransfontein, young Francis was just like many other boys his age: football-crazy. He would play football at the slightest provocation, be it in the streets, during school breaks, or at any other available opportunity.

He started playing organised football during his primary school tenure, but only rose to prominence when he went to further his secondary education aspirations at the Karibib Secondary School before relocating to MLH in 1969.

Francis jnr cemented his place in the school’s football first team starting line-up, operating as a no-nonsense centre- back. Some of his celebrated teammates were Benjamin ‘Doc’ Naobeb, Josef Magu Engelbrecht, Max Gariseb, Andries /Erseb Bekeur, Japhta Noabeb, Tangeni Erkana, Jan Gariseb, Dan Tjongarero, Stephanus Bock, Alfeus Gaweseb, Jonas Narib, Reinhardt Shipanga, Dan Kamho, Alfons Kamatuka, Trevera Shipanga, Eliah Kamberipa, Goliath van Wyk, Petrus Gowaseb, Oswald //Naobeb, Jason Angula, Ben Shaanika, Hendrik Buruxa Engelbrecht, amongst others.

Famously going by the nickname ‘Canon’ for his trademark long-range thunderbolts, Francis once netted a memorable goal from his own half with a thunderous shot that kissed the roof of the net against the Cornelius Goreseb Secondary School, leaving the poor goalkeeper catching flies, much to the delight of his appreciative teammates.

“Well, I had some memorable moments on the football field, but that particular goal will stick in my memory for the rest of my life. I also recall another tough encounter against Kuisebmund outfit Namib Woestyn. They had a great team, but we matched them pound for pound. Woestyn resorted to using dirty tactics, roughing up our players and targeting our main striker, Doc Naobeb, applying rugby-style tackles to the extent that Doc was unable to continue through a bad injury,” he recalls.

Regrettably, Francis could not take his promising football talent to the next level like many of his teammates, who went on to establish themselves as household names in the country’s top-flight football league with exciting Katutura outfit Ramblers Football Club (Ramkat). The multi-talented Francis turned his hand to music, and as they say, the rest is history.

Aged 12 and barely out of his pair of shorts, Francis’ musical career started way back in 1962, singing in church before graduating to brutalising the straight horn (trumpet) under the tutelage of Reverend Boois and his schoolteacher, Mr. Gawanab. The latter was a noted brass band member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Outjo Parish in the early 1960s.

Francis also attended music theory classes offered by the late Fred Schneider, a God-sent German missionary, majoring in playing brass instruments, sheet music and music theory. He was among a group of 15 young boys who sailed across the Mediterranean Sea aboard a UK Union Castle Ship to West Germany, visiting various congregations.

Tellingly, the trip was not a smooth one, as the youngsters found themselves exposed to all sorts of inhuman treatment aboard the ship. “Eish…we experienced blatant racist behaviour aboard the ship, but we somehow managed to weather the storm and had great fun in Germany,” he narrates.

Upon his return from Deutschland, Francis was instrumental in the unavoidable formation of the Karibib Secondary School’s and subsequently the MLH brass bands. He was deservedly installed as Choir Conductor. Francis held several high-profile portfolios in the following sequence:

Youth Trombone and Music Director (Okahandja), Human Resources Department Mineworkers’ Welfare Officer (Rossing/Arandis), and Brass Lecturer at the College of the Arts between 2006 and 2020. He likewise trained the marginalised San community on how to play music and brass instruments in Tsintsabis, Tsumkwe and Mangetti Dune.

Francis led a group of enthusiastic San children on their historic visit to the city of bright lights (Windhoek) for a series of traditional dance and brass music performances, staged at the Ministry of Education, including visits to the Inner City Parish, before wrapping up their journey at State House.

Regrettably, the project came to an abrupt halt when it was shut down due to the after-effects of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. “I was obligated to close shop after losing a significant number of valuable family members,” observes the much-adored musical icon.

Lest we forget, the multi-talented footy-cum-muso briefly served as a board and committee member for his boyhood team, Orlando Pirates Football Club. ‘Abuti Jack’ is happily married to his long-time high school sweetheart, Rubertine Mibagu Francis, formerly Eises, who bore him a quintet of healthy siblings, a daughter and four sons, to complete the close-knit Francis family.

2023-08-18  Carlos Kambaekwa

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