The late David Stone Ndjavera is being remembered as a dedicated and passionate actor, who turned Namibian theatre stages into a home where he, alongside other industry players, told stories that made people cry or laugh – sometimes at the same time.
The award-winning actor died on Wednesday morning in the capital at the age of 52.
The veteran actor of ‘Katutura’, ‘Hairareb’ and ‘Taste of Rain’ films had a wealth of stage productions, having been involved in the theatre industry for about 30 years until his death.
Literature heavy weight, Frederick Freddie Philander told VIBEZ! the moment he hears the name David Ndjavera, acting, and theatre come to mind.
“Nobody could beat him; he came through me. He was a youngster in grade six at a school in Katutura – and by default, I selected him,” said Philander proudly.
He recalled making a survey in class, asking his learners if there were any who would be interested in acting.
“During the selection process, I couldn’t see him (Ndjavera) when he put up his hand because he was small and petite – and luckily, I had one last spot, and he occupied that. Now, look how he turned out,” reminisced Philander.
He added: “Just the other day, I was complimenting him that Africa can now see his talent before the cameras, and that is the relation I had with this young man. I am a broken man and I am sad as I sit here. Another actor friend of ours took him to the hospital and he practically died in his arms”.
He said Ndjavera was a great actor who outshined the great John Khani in the play ‘My Children, My Africa’, and was placed in South African media as the better actor.
Philander added that the late Ndjavera had been an instrumental figure in Namibian theatre, and filling those shoes would be difficult.
“We have travelled to festivals together and acted in many plays. I was even finishing a play that the two of us wrote – and it was his idea. The play is called ‘Two men and a baby’. He was a master at what he was doing, as he learnt from the best. He will be dearly missed.”
Freelance theatre director Sandy Rudd, who has known Ndjavera since 1998, remembers him as a wonderful theatre genius to work with and someone who gave a lot of himself to the industry.
“He was a committed actor of note, and I have watched his career grow with other players such as Freddie Philander. They did extraordinary shows from the theatre side of things. It is one thing being a good theatre actor, but completely different being a good movie actor. David moved seamlessly from one genre to the other. I don’t think there is anything he couldn’t do,” shared Rudd.
She recalled Ndjavera taking over the theatre school when she decided to step back after being in charge for 20 years.
“I was so happy when he took over because that was my baby – and I knew with David, it will be in good hands,” stated Rudd.
Ndjavera went to university late in his life, she said, adding that she knew it was not going to be easy for him with a family and a career to maintain.
“He was busy in the industry, running the theatre and being a devoted father and husband,” said Rudd.
She took the opportunity to advise young aspiring actors, saying it is important to keep the passion going and to not disperse, while they should make sure to learn as much as they can along the way. This entails learning writing skills and doing extensive research.
Award-winning musician and actor Lize Ehlers said Ndjavera was one of her mentors in theatre and will never be forgotten, as he contributed greatly to the entertainment industry as a whole.
“His work was in multiple layers; he was not only a teacher and a mentor but a driving force in the theatre industry – and he was the torchbearer of the Namibian theatre. His passing came as a shock,” shared Ehlers.
She said he was a film stalwart, as he featured and was part of numerous local films. He contributed largely to the industry by teaching what he knows to young Namibians who have now taken over, like Adriano Visagie, who has been hugely impacted by Ndjavera’s work. Visagie is now representing the country internationally with film.
On his part, Visagie took to Facebook to remember the gentle theatre giant who played a crucial role in his acting career.
“My mentor, my director, my friend, my theatre father – a Namibian legend. I know how you feel about titles. You have taught me so many lessons and moulded my acting career,” posted Visagie.
He added: “From performances in theatre musicals, my debut film ‘Salute’, an OYO DVD, to directing my first one-hander, you stood beside me and made me enjoy every moment of being on set; that is what a good director does”.
Visagie recalled the invaluable lessons acquired from Ndjavera, which include getting up from tough situations, and most importantly, remaining humble.
“Your family shared you with us – and at 17h00, we knew you had to pick up mamma, but as soon as you’re back at rehearsals…scripts down. You have fought the good fight and lived such a purposeful, selfless and caring life,” concluded Visagie.
Ndjavera taught drama studies on a full-time basis at the College of the Arts, part-time at Unam and served as a part-time lecturer at IUM in drama and Life Skills.