Artists celebrate De Necker’s life and work

IN LIVING COLOUR … Artists and friends recently gathered at the Namibian Arts Association to celebrate the life and work of venerated visual artist Francois de Necker. Photo: Martha Mukaiwa

Perhaps the most meaningful way to mourn a person’s death is to celebrate their life.

For an artist such as Francois de Necker, this means reflecting not only on their character and contributions, but also stepping, once again, into the world the artist created on canvas.

To open ‘Remembering Francois de Necker’, a kaleidoscope of colleagues, admirers, former students, fellow artists and friends gather at the Namibian Arts Association (NAA), where the vivid tribute exhibition is on display until 29 March.

The dress code, in homage to De Necker’s vibrant canvases, is ‘In Living Colour’, and those in attendance forego funeral black to dress in the bright hues of the abstract expressionist art that enlivens the gallery walls.

The diverse crowd that comes together to celebrate De Necker’s life after his recent death is distinct in its abundance of artists.

Some De Necker taught during his tenure as an associate professor and the head of the University of Namibia’s visual arts department.

Others are fellow artists as esteemed as Andre du Pisani, Hercules Viljoen, Ndasuunje ‘Papa’ Shikongeni and Alpheus Mvula.

A few more are former colleagues who are also artists, such as Don Stevenson and Cathy McRoberts, who pens and presents a moving memorial to the respected artist and educator.

“Francois, as we know, created landscapes. Not the classical landscapes of, for example, Pierneef, but landscapes of the emotions and the mind – inner landscapes inspired by the external landscapes of his beloved Namibia,” says McRoberts, who takes to a makeshift stage on the steps of the NAA courtyard to remember her friend.

“Francois excelled at spatial organisation both within his artworks and without, and he could create spaces for others that were both efficient and comfortable to be in.

“From his wonderful home and his phenomenally organised studio to the Unam visual arts department itself, which began life as a warehouse-like space with public lavatory overtones and was converted, through his vision, into a really pleasant place to work.”

Eulogising De Necker as patient, calm, disciplined, modest, open to new ideas and approaches and determined when pushing visual arts department initiatives through the layers of Unam administration, McRoberts recalls a man whose heart was truly in teaching.

In his own tribute, artist Kabelo Kim Modise directs attendees to the NAA’s upper gallery, where he is showcasing the beginnings of a documentary on De Necker, which he began in 2021.

Interviewing the artist about his dreams, work and regrets, Modise gives those in attendance the gift of a few final words of wisdom from a man who made it his life’s work to nurture generations of Namibian artists.

“He lived his life, the evidence is upstairs,” says Modise, who shares that De Necker’s primary dream in life was to make his wife happy.

De Necker’s wife, Alida, is responsible for much of the selection exhibited at the NAA, which is borrowed from her private collection.

Paintings dating back to 1966 when De Necker was a student are a privilege to view as are the treasures of his non-figurative and emotive landscapes, rain-birds and dark moons presented by the NAA and the National Art Gallery of Namibia.

“This exhibition has the added poignancies of being some of the last works that Francois produced before he left us,” McRoberts says.

“We must cherish the opportunity to be the first audience for his last works and hold our memories of Francois in our hearts as we wish for him that he may rest in peace.”

–; Martha Mukaiwa on Twitter and Instagram;

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