Hafeni the Man from Mondesa

Inspired by South Africa’s flourishing townships tours, Heinrich Hafeni, created his niche in Namibia’s tourism sector. Under ‘Hafeni’s Tourism Group’ he introduces visiting guests to life in the township of Mondesa situated in the coastal city of Swakopmund.

His main objective is having the tourists experience Mondesa’s history, lifestyle and the authentic local food cuisines whilst at the same time help add value to the immediate communities in these townships.

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What attracted you to the story of your film?

Tourism is a key sector in the Namibian economy due to the many breathtaking sceneries my country has to offer. Most tourism activities are centered around the Namib Desert, the Fish River Canyon and whole lot of other points of interest. When I learned of Hafeni’s different approach to tourism that sees him bringing tourists into the townships where the vast majority of the Namibian population lives and introducing them to everyday life in these neighbourhoods, I was immediately captivated. Hafeni’s concept of providing a more rounded-off Namibian experience to international travelers, taking them out of their comfort zone and allowing them a glimpse into aspects of Namibian society they would otherwise never ever get exposed to, offered a multitude of storytelling opportunities.

Why was it important to tell this story? / What do you hope your documentary will achieve?

When I met Hafeni for the first time to research his story more in depth, I was taken by how he succeeded against the odds. Failing in school but instead of giving up, using that as an opportunity to turn around his life. Working his way up the ladder from a dishwasher to a receptionist to a tour guide, forging connections all along that would later enable him to start up his very own tourism enterprise. Hafeni’s story has the potential to inspire young people on this continent and provide them with an example of what is possible even though the odds may be against you.

What should we know about your filmmaking process?
The key to creating a solid documentary is the relationship between the director and the protagonist. The trust and openness that exists between the two will translate into the final film. My goal was to build a good foundation with Hafeni during the research phase and expand on that as we started filming with him. A lot of the final film was already determined during the research & conceptual phase, however, it’s important to allow any given documentary to breathe so that it comes to life. This is what happened when Hafeni interacted with other characters. Here’s where during filming you learn to let go as a director and allow a scene to unfold the way it wants to. Bringing it back into the storyline and the overall narrative of the documentary then happens in the editing process.

Did you make any unexpected discoveries while shooting?

The unexpected discoveries happened more during the postproduction. Some scenes in the documentary were shot in Oshivambo, one of the Namibian vernacular languages that I don’t speak or understand. During the filming somebody would give me the gist of what was being said, but not the details. In the edit suite the translator would provide an accurate translation and that’s when it all came together. Moments such as the interaction with the market vendors during the opening of the film or the scene with Hafeni’s grandmother all of a sudden completely fell into place and added a beautiful and authentic note to the overall story.


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