As part of our preparations for our 20th anniversary weekend (June 4-5, 2016), we present a small series of alumni profiles, celebrating the profound and enduring role Kokopelli plays in the lives of many of its choristers.
Matheus Tuhafeni Michael
Exchange chorister to Kokopelli, 2009
I first met Kokopelli on their second tour to Namibia. I was a member of Mascato Coastal Youth Choir at the time, and we had beautiful concerts together. In 2008 Scott Leithead returned to Namibia on sabbatical, working with Mascato and other choirs around Namibia. During that trip, Scott also formed the nin’jazz ensemble, which I joined.
At that point I was still in high school. I had many ambitions for my life, but my great-grandmother who raised me had just passed away at that time and I was living alone. I became a bit lost in my own world.
When I came to Canada in 2009 on exchange to Kokopelli, it was the first time I had spent an extended period away from Namibia and in particular Swakopmund, my hometown. In Canada, everything was very new and exciting, and I met great people everywhere I went. Until that point in my life I had always been very shy, but the exchange put me in a position where I was not only representing myself, but Mascato and Kokopelli as well. In those six months, I learned a lot about myself, people, and community through music.
I’m currently studying towards a BA Music at The Free State University in South Africa. The turning point came when I rejoined Kokopelli for its 2013 tour of South Africa and Swaziland. One night after a performance I had a chat in Scott’s room, with Cieran and Mxolisi and Scott. When I left that room, my life was on a new path (I never told them this). For this and many more life opportunities I can thank my Kokopelli family and Scott himself.
Since then, I have earned a diploma in Tourism, Travel and Hospitality management from the International University of Management and an Advanced Diploma in African Performing Arts from the College of The Arts. In 2015 I represented the College of The Arts at the Singing and Dance symposium for African folk music and dance held in Nanjing, China and later that year got invited to tour with Spirit ensemble to China, taking part in the 15th Nanjing Arts and Culture Festival.
I really want to take this opportunity to thank everyone from Kokopelli. You have played a big role in shaping my life. Ondapandula (“I’m thankful” in Oshiwambo).