Stolen Moments – Namibian Music History Untold (1950-80s)

Key information

10:30 AM to 5:00 PM
Brunei Gallery
Exhibition Rooms
Event type

About this event

“Imagine you had never known about the musical riches of your country. Your ears had been used to nothing but the dull sounds of country’s former occupants and the blaring church and propaganda songs that were sold to you as your country’s musical legacy. Until all at once, a magnitude of unknown sounds, melodies and songs appear. This sound, that roots your culture to the musical influences of jazz, blues and pop from around the world, is unique, yet familiar. It revives memories of bygone days, recites the history of your homeland and enables you for the first time to experience the emotions, joys and pains of your ancestors

There are many reasons why you’ve never heard this music before. It was censored, suppressed, prohibited and made almost impossible to listen to. Its creators are either long gone or have given up on music making, by reasons of adversity, death and despair. And yet this beautiful music exists with a liveliness, as if it had never stopped playing. It is still in the minds of the few who can remember, with the ones who played it, and on those rare recordings that have survived in archives and record collections scattered around the globe. Allow me to share these stolen moments with you.”
Aino Moongo

Stolen Moments - Namibian Music History Untold is a celebration of the stories of Namibia’s unsung musical heroes. It revives Namibian underground pop culture from the 1950s to the late 1980s - a period that marks some of the harshest years of racial discrimination under the South African apartheid regime that followed German colonialism.

The exhibition reveals what back then remained almost unheard by a large part of the population due to censorship and segregation. This is the story of those who, despite the propagated oppression, formed bands, resisted this cultural imposition, followed global trends, experimented with traditional sounds, played every weekend in backdoor ballrooms and danced their way through decades of extreme racial injustice.

The Stolen Moments project started in 2010 as a national treasure hunt for Namibia‘s disregarded popular music. The exhibition shines a spotlight on bands such as The Dead Wood, The Rocking Kwela Boys, Children of Pluto, #Kharixurob, Otto Kampari, Strike Vilakazi, Warmgat and The Dakotas; all musicians who, under different circumstances, probably would have enjoyed celebrated pop careers across borders.

Their music was contemporary, often fusing regional styles with locally passed-on traditions. Saxophonist Leyden Naftali’s band emulated the strident orchestration of old-fashioned ragtime. Ben Molatzi, a singer and guitarist from Tsumeb, wrote timeless, beautiful ballads drawing on the distinctive melodies and harmonies of his Damara and Sotho heritage. The Ugly Creatures' repertoire included psychedelic rock, soul and funk, but one would always recognize its roots in Damara punch. The Outjo Singers fused jazz with shrill female choruses long before Abbey Lincoln and Art Blakey’s Freedom Now Suite.

Curated by Namibian scholars and produced in co-production with an international group of artists, filmmakers and photographers, the exhibition showcases an extensive photographic collection, a 120min. video projection that revisits the dance styles of the 1950s-80s, 14 listening stations featuring Namibia’s music legends, a sound installation that explores a selection of over 100-hours of interviews with musicians and contemporary witnesses and a large collection of and record covers and music memorabilia which profile Namibia’s much under-represented musical subcultures.

The artists of the visual works are David Megameno Akumoto, Julia Hango (Juliart), Dieter Hinrichs, Julume J. Ipinge, John Liebenberg, Steffen List, John Muafangejo, Kapanda Nangombe, Sandile Pazvakavambwa, Bernard Santos, Filipus Sheehama, Papa Ndasunye Shikongeni, Romeo Sinkala, Andrew van Wyk and Stephan Zaubitzer.

Stolen Moments – Namibian Music History Untold premiered at Iwalewahaus, University of Bayreuth in Germany in 2016 and has been shown in Basel and Berlin. For 2020 it is envisioned to tour Namibia as part of the country’s 30th Year Independence celebrations.

As a special event for the opening of the exhibition at the Brunei Gallery on 11, July 2019 we proudly present the official release of the first of its kind Namibian Music Masters recordings. The songs of Ben Molatzi's "No Way To Go" album have been slumbering in oblivion in Namibian radio archives and are now brought to the world for the first time ever on LP and CD, released by Germany's Bear Family Records on their Cree Records world music subsidiary in co-production with Stolen Moments and the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation.

Dr. Angela Impey, Chair of SOAS Music says

I am thrilled to be hosting this unique exhibition at SOAS. It's commitment to uncovering the songs and stories of a profoundly marginalised people speaks to SOAS Music's priority to better understand how music is used to define and defend peoples’ needs and interests. Namibia is little known to most people in Britain, and Stolen Moments offers unique insight into the politics and pleasures of a remarkable, resilient people.

Dr. Ulf Vierke, Director of Iwalewahaus, University of Bayreuth says

We have a strong interest in questions around archives in the post-colonial context. Stolen Moments offered a unique opportunity to address all kinds of questions within this field. The exhibition works like an archive. Instead of giving finite answers, the exhibition offers an extremely heterogeneous and rich corpus of information. The visitor is put in the position of a researcher. In contrast to the stereotype of dusty and tiring archive this exhibition offers all kinds of stream full of information, music, images and aesthetic content.

The exhibition is curated by Aino Moongo. Aino Moongo is also a founding member of the Stolen Moments – Namibian Music History Untold research group that she established together with Eljakim ‘Baby’ Doeseb and Thorsten Schütte in 2010. In 2018, she curated the traveling show Future Africa Visions in Time in Windhoek. Currently she completes her MA in art and curatorial studies within the program art and societies in Africa and works as a project assistant at Iwalewahaus and BIGSAS, University of Bayreuth.

Project Coordination : Angela Impey
Curator : Aino Moongo
Assistant Curator/Media Liaison : Siegrun Salmanian
Artistic Direction : Thorsten Schütte
Social Media : John Atterbury
Head of Brunei Gallery, SOAS : John Hollingworth
Project Advisor : Ulf Vierke

The project is supported by:

  • African Music Archives (AMA)
  • Archiv- und Museumsstiftung der VEM
  • Basler Afrika Bibliographien
  • Bundeskulturstiftung [Funded by the TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation]
  • Cardiff University Phoenix Project
  • Carl Schlettwein Stiftung
  • Cultures of Resistance
  • De Beers Group
  • Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Windhoek
  • High Commission of the Republic of Namibia, Iwalewahaus
  • SOAS University of London
  • University of Bayreuth and Mopane Foundation.

Public Programme

Friday July 12

Exhibition walkabout with curator, Aino Moongo and Stolen Moments researcher/filmmaker, Thorsten Schutte
Time: 15h00-17h00
Venue: Brunei Gallery

“Listening in, Sounding out”: An evening of storytelling and curated listening to rare recordings from the Namibian archive
Time: 18h00-20h00
Venue: Brunei Gallery. Bring your own wine (no food allowed)

Saturday July 13

"Play back London: Improvisations on themes from the Namibian Archive" [This event is not open to the public.]
Time: 12h00-17h00
Venue: Brunei Gallery (Start with an exhibition walkabout. A light lunch will be provided. We then proceed to Music Room G52 for an afternoon of improvisation)

Friday, 19 July

Exhibition walkabout with curatorial advisor, Siegrun Salmanian
Time: 15h00-17h00
Venue: Brunei Gallery

Friday, September 20

Finissage: Closing event with special guests (to be announced)

SOAS Summer School programme : Screenings of “Generation X” and “Land Matters” with Q+A with film director and exhibition curator, Thorsten Schutte

Sample Images