‘These Stones Will Speak’ photographs freedom

Artworks: Papaki Mburuu, Sage and Delight Namene

Freedom, hard-won, at stake and ever-evolving, is at the centre of ‘These Stones Will Speak’, a photographic exhibition currently on display at Sweet Side of Thingz in Windhoek.

The culmination of a five-day workshop, facilitated by Portuguese photographer and anthropologist Carlos Barradas, the exhibition explores themes of freedom in history, in contemporary society and as members of vulnerable or forgotten communities on the 50th anniversary of Portugal’s Carnation Revolution.

“This year, Portugal celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974 – which returned freedom to the Portuguese and allowed independence to its former territories in Africa. The embassy of Portugal in Windhoek is honoured to embrace this initiative with StArt Art Gallery, showcasing the photographic work of eight talented Namibians,” says Portuguese ambassador to Namibia Rui Carmo.

“Freedom cannot be taken for granted, as it is a permanent quest. It also has different meanings, according to each context and individual experiences,” he says.

In a black and white series by artist Sage, the reality of the freedom won after Namibia’s struggle for independence seems less than what was imagined.

Photographing men over 50 in their community, Sage juxtaposes portraiture with a collection of reflections on freedom from those who had their liberty limited during the apartheid regime.

“Martin expresses a profound sense of disillusionment despite residing in a nation deemed free. Growing up during a time when mobility was restricted, Tate Steve cherishes the newfound liberty that allows him to traverse the world at will,” says Sage.

“Even though we live in a free country, Uncle Wylee thinks some people, especially the poor, aren’t treated fairly. These photos are a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit and a celebration of the universal quest for freedom.”

For artist Papaki Mburuu, the quest for freedom is constantly disrupted by their LGBTQ+ identity.

Through a series of striking self-portraits, Mburuu explores the freedom, rejection, stigma, violence and vice inherent in existing within this spectrum in a nation where LGBTQ+ hate speech and non-acceptance resulted in profound and multifaceted marginalisation.

“Through my work, I fight for LGBTQ+ rights. With the series ‘Deep’ I want to draw attention to how difficult it is to be LGBTQ+. We get called names and are publicly humiliated and this too often leads to many people losing their lives,” says Mburuu, adding that the majority of the Namibian society is still not welcoming of LGBTQ+ people and their rights as human beings.

Also investigating the theme of freedom through portraiture are Tamarah Strauss and Delight Namene.

In video and photography, Strauss engages an artist, a painter and a filmmaker to consider the freedom of creating through art, while highlighting the symbolism of particular colours.

Namene, on the other hand, presents a series of portraits of her twin brother wrapped in the delicate cloth of her burdens to illustrate the potential of freedom through fraternity, love and compassion.

“Participating in the photography work was an enlightening journey that deepened my appreciation for the power of photography to preserve memories and shape narratives,” says Strauss.

In pieces by Iiyambo Iitembu, Zabeth Philander, Phoenix Johannes and Ngeitokondjo Sakeus, freedom is connected to historical friezes, navigating towards new chapters and underpinned by labour, recalled through an old, Tsumeb mining site.

A varied and encouraging offering from a selection of budding photographers, ‘These Stones Will Speak’ is funded by the Camões Institute and derives its name from ‘Desert Bones’, a poem by Kuhepa Tondju.

The exhibition will be on display at Sweet Side of Thingz on Windhoek’s Independence Avenue until 29 June.

– martha@namibian.com.na ; Martha Mukaiwa on Twitter and Instagram; marthamukaiwa.com

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