‘Dancing Instruments’ presents all night gathering

Shishani Vranckx Photo: Martha Mukaiwa

The lost language, history, craftmanship and continued cultural significance of the ongoma drum is at the centre of a multifaceted exploration presented as three happenings at Goethe-Institut Namibia.

Collectively titled ‘Dancing Instruments: In Conversation with Looted Objects’, the research project, exhibition and performance was born in the encountering of an ongoma drum in the African archives of the MARKK in Hamburg, and premiered as ‘The Birth of the Ongoma Drum’ in Germany last year.

The project which features a selection of Namibian and German researchers and artists is supported by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Hamburg Ministry of Culture and Media and Goethe-Institut Namibia.

“We aim to dispel the stereotype of African drums. We want to showcase the complexity of knowledge that exists, but often goes unnoticed,” says the project’s artistic director, Claude Jansen.

“It’s a missing and violently suppressed knowledge and practice.”

In Namibia, this examination was first presented as ‘Trees & Drums’, an exhibition, sonic experience and installation displaying collaborative artworks of the drum itself, research findings and photographs, as well as a diaphanous textile forest signifying the wood used to create these sacred instruments.

The exhibition which included mixed media and textiles by Maria Caley, Loini Iizyenda, Claude Jan­sen, Tuaovi Betty Katuuo, Laimi Mbangula and Lambo Tsiliyiannis, was followed by a public talk hosted by Sarah Bergh on Tuesday evening and will culminate in an all-night gathering at the Goethe-Institut this Friday.

Curated by Aino Moongo, Jan­sen, Fabrice Mazliah, Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja and Shishani Vranckx, ‘The Life of An Ongoma Drum: All Night Gathering’ will feature Shishani and special guests, Tschuku Tschuku and Ongoma Drummers from Kongola.

Highlighting the drum as a means to bring people together and its erasure during colonialism, Caley emphasises that, while the ongoma drum deserves rigorous study, it should also be practised.

“We need to move beyond merely writing about these objects to actively practising with them. These objects were integral to our social lives and livelihoods,” Caley says.

“The drum is not just a musical instrument. From its creation to its use, everything is interconnected.”

Grounded in the findings of the research team, the all night gathering will explore the varied role of the drum in Namibia in its social, political and spiritual contexts. The drum featured in the event, found by Moongo and Jansen, originates from the Hamburg MARKK Museum.

Amid the extended showcase, performance curators Mushaandja and Shishani will consider the migration and geographical rhythms of the drum and Ongoma Drummers will play for as long as they possibly can.

Set to be a night of music, knowledge and the transcendent sound of drums, ‘All Night Gathering’ is a family friendly and free event taking place at Goethe-Institut Namibia from 19h00 on 1 March.
– martha@namibian.com.na; Martha Mukaiwa on Twitter and Instagram; marthamukaiwa.com

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