Passionate about storytelling and pristine visuals

Maria Nepembe has that cunning, creative, out-of-the-box mindset which enables her to translate a song into a cinematic experience.

14 February 2020 | Art and Entertainment

One of Namibia's hottest women graciously allowed us to crown her tjil's cover star for this edition. A media darling, she takes her work as seriously as she does her looks, but in recent years, we've observed her love for storytelling and video production.

From her early days of cameos in music videos for PDK's Dirty Kandeshi and The Dogg's Tromentos, she has come a long way to become one of Namibia's go-to music video directors. “I can't recall which stage of my life exactly I fell in love with directing, but being an actress, model and someone who spends time on sets, you start developing an interest in the art behind the camera,” she said.

Her passion for video production stems from the desire to tell stories her own way. She mentioned she doesn't always feel emotionally prepared to be in front of the camera to portray a completely different person or character, but she's always willing to be behind the camera and be credited as director. “I want my creativity to be seen as well. I am more than just a pretty face. I am more than just an 'okay' actress,” she said.

Nepembe received formal training for six months at MetFilms School, one of London's leading film institutions.

There she learnt everything on lighting, sound, pre-production, production and post-production. Because of the knowledge and skills acquired, she now knows how to produce and direct a film. “It was intense because they compressed three years of work in six months.

“I am not the best videographer out there but I know the basics and learning never stops for me. I learn something new on every set,” Nepembe said.

In this line of work, her dream is to create and tell a Namibian story she can one day showcase at film festivals around the world and ultimately score an Oscar nomination and win. In 2019, she partnered with the national broadcaster NBC and served us 13 episodes of a reality show, Body With Maria Nepembe.

She told tjil that, at this point, she isn't certain whether there will be season two because of the logistics involved in shooting with such a big media house.

“There are so many upper level people involved and everything has to be approved but I hope there will be a season two because we had a successful run with the first season,” she said, adding that her highlight from season one was the positive response the show got from viewers.

“People would complain about things like the trainer is too tough, but production-wise, I can't remember a single tweet saying it is badly edited or the sound is poor.”

She doesn't take all the directing credit on Body With Maria Nepembe, though, maintaining it was a team effort. She shot about nine episodes before heading off to school and emphasised that she did not want to dive right into directing after MetFilms School. “Pombili Shilongo produced the show and I learnt so much from her and the entire production team. I am happy people reacted the way they did to the show because if you do not evoke feelings, then your show needs more work.”

Nepembe mentioned patience and originality as the philosophies that influence her creative work. She does not believe in rushing the execution process just because the audience wants new material. “Rushing content is how even big superstars end up putting out mediocre content and then they get backlash from the same audience who rushed them.

“I feel like people who consume our content need to develop a sense of empathy and understand that creatives are extremely emotional beings.”

Teasing what her followers can expect from her next, the director announced that she is going to direct Kp Illest's Jealousy music video next month. “He is one of my absolute best friends. I pitched the idea of me directing that video and he said it would be an honour. You guys won't be ready,” she promised.

Nepembe added that family is what keeps her grounded. She said she is blessed to have been raised by understanding and supportive parents. “When I did my first music video, I was still at university but I did not get those typical remarks from parents saying 'what are you doing in music videos instead of concentrating on school'. Instead, my parents said 'OMG! You look so beautiful'.

“There are always those who channel bad energy but I do not let it get to me. Share love and kindness, it takes nothing away from you,” she said.

MICHAEL KAYUNDE

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