These past few weeks sombre news has been on loop on the internet. For this reason, Namib Insider! is keeping up with our friends in the stage and screen industry through a series of Q&A’s titled ‘Lockdown Missive’. During this series, we will feature various performers and creators as they share their quarantine experiences and at the same time, bring a little more light on the internet.
Today we have Lize Ehlers, Founder & Director of RMB Song Night, acclaimed Musical Theatre Director for musicals Sandy Rudd’s I am John (2018), Senga Brockerhoff’s Every Woman (2019) & Jenny Kandenge’s For Coloured Girls (2019). Ehlers, an award-winning musician, is the 2019 Namibian Annual Music Awards Artist of the Year, Female Artist of the Year & Best House Song winner and this year, she is also a nominee for Artist of the Decade. She is a blue-economist that works in various fields of the Namibian creative industry, including acting.
When the first lockdown was announced in March, what was your initial reaction?
I immediately thought of my artists that are booked weekly at Avani & Maerua Mall and how this will devastate their income. I then started panicking about my own income and how it will affect my family. Subsequently, all of us have been stripped of our income due to Covid-19.
What really bums you out about the current state of events?
The fact that there is no social security for artists in Namibia and that we live from gig to gig. I have completely depleted my private savings and have started to ask for donations for my weekly live online stream shows that take place Monday to Friday from 19:30 till 20:00 on Facebook @lizeehlers. I see it as a passion project and I am providing creative relief during this pandemic. If people liked a show and they feel they want to donate, they are free to do so.
Productivity wise, what have you been up to?
I have been reflecting on how much I have had to work to stay alive. I have realized that without an active role on stage or as an agent getting work for my RMB Song Night- & independent singers I have no livelihood. I have also been writing proposals to get RMB Song Night online and have reached out to various entities to make online productions a reality with financial benefits. I used to call myself a ‘digital dinosaur’, but this pandemic has been the steepest learning curve of my life.
It’s probably hard but how have you been trying to keep a positive mental attitude during these trying times?
I have been praying daily and meditating, for myself and for others. I have been working on my music daily for my live online show on Facebook every weeknight at 19:30 till 20:00. This includes rehearsing all my 6 albums, singles, writing new songs and using this state of mind as inspiration for new material. My colleague & friend Tulimela Shityuwete was inspired by my house song Soul Style to create a #soulstylechallenge and together with dancer Odile Gertze, they choreographed the challenge. It premiered Wednesday 22 April on Facebook. Every Namibian is asked to join the challenge and do the moves. It is to encourage inclusion, it talks about how we all are going through this pandemic together and how we can celebrate being Namibian.
With the arts temporarily shut down, how would you advise people to continue to support the arts industry?
I think the only tangible support would be for people who are able to donate encourage artists to do online painting sessions, live dance classes, live performances, and then the viewers can enjoy, interact in realtime and donate to say thank you afterwards. Artists should not be shy to make donation posters with their details on, because, at the end of the day, we are still providing a service, we are still offering something emotional and beautiful and not just asking for handouts.
During the lockdown, have you discovered anything that you’d like to recommend to Namib Insider!’ readers?
I have discovered ‘A Colours Show’ on YouTube and I am obsessed.
My favourite artist at the moment on the show is Mayra Andrade. Song Nighter Shiruka introduced me to her music in 2019. But this show performance is so passionate and with the times. I would love to see an African or Namibian version of ‘A Colors Show’. Then I have been binging on Jane The Virgin on Netflix – it is so great! It talks fundamentally about family & honour and it reminds me so much of my family and it gives me inspiration and many laughs during this uncertain time.
Looking to the future, what are you looking forward to most when all of this is over?
I am looking forward to an auditorium full of people and singing my heart out with my band and all the right digital support for a live broadcast to those who cannot physically attend the shows. This will be our only way forward. I also cannot wait for Boet & Sus to actually happen at the National Theatre of Namibia.
Lastly, since being silly once in a while doesn’t hurt, a penguin walks through your door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
He says: “Ola – Lize, got any nice lyrics for my new climate change song?” and we both start laughing and then we have tequila and start crying, because like Cardi B said: “Sh*t is getting real!”