Art’s a Wrap

Namibia’s visual artists painted odes to the masters, reflected troubled waters, unearthed unmourned bodies, captured fragments of home and cried “we will be free” amid the visual art scene of 2023.

From solo artists such as Tuli Mekondjo, Nicola Brandt, Wil-Merie Greyling, Hage Mukwendje and Nambowa Malua presenting their work in Europe and South Africa to Actofel Ilovu’s acclaimed ‘Onlooker’ and Lynette Musukubili’s ‘Bukalo Stories’ showing here at home, individual artists exploring themes of history, war, colonialism, fire, people, village life, womanhood, salt, grief, philosophy and being, as well as politics, prejudice and power, excelled both abroad and at home.

Also a year in which groups and collectives such as the Owela Live Arts Collective and StArt Art Gallery presented in Makhanda and a number of Namibian artists joined forces with Jo Rogge and the Namibian Arts Association at Cape Town’s Ava Gallery, 2023 highlighted the immense potential of both individual and institutional collaboration.

ReFrame Kollektiv’s two and half month showing of ‘Home of Mine’ at Fotogalerie Friedrichshain was another such partnership which saw 12 contemporary Namibian photographers present their individual series in Berlin.

“I think this year has been a really wonderful year for institutional collaboration,” says StArt Art curator Helen Harris.

“We’ve seen lots of different curators and galleries, artists and museums coming together to produce projects that they wouldn’t have been able to do alone and I think that’s also really exciting, because when we work together we tend to have a greater impact.”

Harris is a facilitator and curator for Africa Prime Initiative’s ‘Rising Voices’, ‘We Will Be Free’, as well as the Bakers Bay Artists’ Retreat, the fruit of which is currently showing at the Namibian Arts Association until February.

Also still on display is Maria Mbereshu and Janina Totzauer’s ‘Shapes of Shelter’ at The Project Room. The two multimedia artists created parts of the work within the gallery and fashioned an “intimate carpet” which was used as a zone for discussion

around safe spaces and for the local premiere of filmmaker Naomi Beukes’ ‘Scarlet Ribbons’.

“Dominant themes this year were exhibitions grappling with our history, colonial past, social, economic and political issues and our current affairs,” says The Project Room founder and curator Frieda Lühl.

“We saw a wide variety of disciplines and mediums at The Project Room this year, ranging from exhibitions in painting to more installation but also performances, video screenings and great talks,” she says.

“It was a very exciting mix this year. I hope next year we can extend this mix, strengthen this platform and give artists the space to exhibit, experiment and perform.”

A solid year in which Namafu Amutse and Candice Mouton opened the visual arts scene with ‘Side by Side’ which married the latter’s pop art and surrealism with the former’s photographic exploration of masculinity astride the sea, 2023 was additionally a year defined by contemplations on the Herero-Nama genocide reflected in visual art, theatre and photography.

Employing photography and theatre at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre, Veronique Kuchekana-Chirau presented ‘Daughter of Molly’ to recall the atrocities of the Herero-Nama genocide committed by German colonial forces between 1904 and 1908.

Shortly after at the NAA, Berlin-based photographer Ixmucané Aguilar returned to Namibia to launch ‘Fraitaxtse¯s sores tsîn ge ra≠gâ – Ondjembo yo Null Vier’, a photographic and sonic installation-turned-book documenting the testimonies of Ovaherero and Nama people affected by violent German colonial rule and genocide.

Historic and self-reflective, but also as singular as Omba Arts Trust’s showing of contemporary San art in ‘Tsamma Time’ and the National Art Gallery of Namibia’s ‘Omusimanekwa John’ in celebration of John Muafangejo’s 80th birthday, this year’s visual art offering also included The Bellhaus Atelier & Galerie’s sage artistic pairings of Andrea Horsthemke, Anne Lacheiner-Kuhn, Heidi Louw and E-Tunga Studio, as well as the Potter’s Association of Namibia’s delightful ‘Bowled Over’.

Taking art outdoors, the annual Otjomuise Live Arts Festival returned with work by artists such as Vitjitua Ndjiharine, Candice Mouton and Petrina Mathews displayed on buildings and live painted across the city.

The year drew to a close with a promising offering from this year’s College of the Arts cohort presenting ArtSplash at the Katutura Community Arts Centre.

A new addition to the arts scene is Jaimee-Lee Diergaardt’s buzzy Et Cetera Art Café and Studio which opened at the Old Breweries in April, while beloved art gallery and eatery Café Prestige permanently closed in September.

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