Art that took Flight this Year
2015 will surely be a year remembered with great fondness by both the artists and the lovers of art in Namibia. Critical steps took place this year towards giving Art the platform that it is due as our vehicle of expression, creation and heritage. Award winning Namibian artist, Tanya Turipamwe Stroh prepared a review of some of the important developments in Art in Namibia this year for us.
A Year for Art by Tanya Turipamwe Stroh
Art in 2015 came in all shapes and sizes. From gigantic metal puppets that wowed our new president at the Independence Day celebrations to the tireless dedication of volunteers who put in countless hours to organize monthly shows and mobilize a movement. Artists julilated and sighed with relief at the creation of a new ministry dedicated to education, art, and culture and a national conference in April that set the precedent for overdue issues. The John Muafangejo Art Centre moved to a new premises with artists in residence and the International Tulipamwe Artists’ Exhibition returned to the National Art Gallery, after years of absence. NASCAM publically addressed issues of artist royalties and strides were made to sell Namibian music in local South African music franchise stores. AfricAvenir continued to screen award-winning African cinema with the feature film ‘Katutura’ finally shown in our cinemas. Nude performance pieces took center stage addressing the scourge of gender-based violence, which continues to mar our country. First Rain Dance Theatre celebrated a milestone by opening their dance studio to the public, proving that art can be lucrative business. Artworlfezine the independent art publication went from web to print in several issues and fashion students stole the limelight at institution graduate shows. By no means an exhaustive account of the year, this snapshot simply shows that art remains at the forefront of life as we know it in Windhoek.
Here’s a personal listicle dedicated to the trailblazing art-worthy happenings and the people that made them happen.
JoJo’s, the modern day coffeehouse
The official opening of JoJo’s Music and Art Cafe, ushered art into 2015. Finally, Windhoek has an eatery specifically dedicated to the making and makers of art. JoJo’s has filled a void – a contemporary take on the 19th century coffeehouse, it has become a space where artists and like-minded creatives meet, share, co-create, perform on stage and exhibit their work. Owned and managed by avid art patrons, Joonas and Joolokeni Leskelä, the couple’s personal touch can be felt from the considered menu, greeting customers on a first name basis, an increasing collection of New Yorker Magazines, and carefully curated vinyl records specifically chosen each week. JoJo’s has become the home of several important and regular events throughout the year, from hip hop cyphers, poetry readings, closest exchanges, and debut art exhibitions for emerging artists.
Photo by JoJo’s of Jacques Mushaandja on stage.
Dance finally took it’s rightful place in the art ranks, previously occupied by poetry, comedy, music, and film – this with the opening of the Salsa Windhoek and First Rain Dance Theatre
“A city can’t be a city without salsa” maintains Rémy Ngamije the owner of Salsa Windhoek, Windhoek’s one and only social salsa club. With a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude, Rémy started Salsa Windhoek after returning from his studies in Cape Town, only to find none here. Salsa Windhoek offers weekly classes ranging from the absolute beginner to the more advanced enthusiast. Under the co-instruction of Rémy and Samatha Muller, a growing community of salseras & salseros have emerged, recently showcasing their talents at the Cape Town Salsa Congress. Salsa Windhoek makes dance an accessible art form for anyone. Samantha believes, “If you can dance, you can walk” and Salsa Windhoek offering proves just that.
Photo by Salsa Windhoek.
Art talk, the media and us
In March, Art Nam, an organisation working to improve on the economic, social and creative surrounding for artists in all fields and genres, hosted an art talk with the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre, looking at issues of representation in the media. Packed to the rafters, a panel discussion followed by the floor, exposed some passionate statements from either side – the lack of critical and relevant art reviews, differentiation between art and entertainment value, and artists showcasing poorly prepared work with mediocre marketing.
2015 has a been a good year for addressing Namibia’s art and culture shortcomings. Issues that have been bubbling under for several years have finally come to the fore. With a new ministry in place specifically dedicated to the arts, and the public consultation of Namibia’s official Art and Culture Policy, the arts community has shown that they will no longer be sidelined without official support ratified by policy and funding. The fate of the dormant National Art Council remains to be seen and 2016 hopes to be the year where an official framework of support, protection, promotion and funding will come to art and culture. The dedication of individuals like Councillor Leitago, who’ve organized several public meetings to discus contributions to the policy and the efforts of groups like Art Nam have shown that artists remain some of the most active citizens in what matters to them most.
In February 2016, Art Nam will host another art talk The Artist Union – A Potential Powerhouse. The subject matter is a serious one and aims to reassess the status of the currently existing artist unions as principal representatives of the artist fraternity. To some extent, this discussion serves as a wakeup call for existing artist unions. More importantly, it is a call to the artists to realign their partnership with existing unions and assist at elevating their structures, or to create new bodies that will potentially fill the current void in effective artist representation.The panel will include representatives of existing unions; local artists; representative of the Ministry of Education Arts & Culture and an expert with a legal and/or economical background.
Photo of Papa Shikongeni taken by DefeatHate Photography
Katurua is… now.
“Katutura is…” is a joint arts project around the theme of Katutura, Namibia’s biggest township, its roots and relevance, interpreted by artists from different disciplines in dialogue with the community of Katutura. Earmarked as a week long art-activity project in 2016, “Katutura is…” has been spoken of at TEDx Windhoek and this year saw the official start of the project by bringing public art to site specific murals in Katutura. In partnership with Joe Vision Productions, Turipamwe Design, and the Goethe Centre Windhoek, Johan Johnston, Mitchell Gatsi and the learners of the BNC after school centre in Katutura were invited to create and paint two large-scale murals inspired by life in Katutura.
Doodle Sessions – Drawing people together
In September, Artwolfe, Buruxa Media, and Turipamwe Design joined forces to create the Doodle Sessions, a free platform inviting people from all walks of life to draw together in an informal setting. With four sessions hosted to-date, each with it’s own facilitator and focus, the Doodle Session have been praised for its novel approach, inviting people to create together, informally regardless of age, race or capability.
Photo by Remy The Quill.
Spoken Word Namibia is ten.
The performance poetry platform, which started in a small café among friends in 2004, is considered by many as the trailblazer for the monthly art event in Windhoek. With a minimum of 11 shows a year, Spoken Word Namibia has created a community of poets and aficionados, who come to listen intently on the first Wednesday of the month, captured by original performance poetry addressing societal, personal, and critical issues. The monthly events are tireless organized by a handful of volunteers including Oshosheni Hiveluah, celebrated filmmaker and the original remaining member. Of this momentous achievement she says “My biggest gift is seeing poets being rewarded for the art and people realising the power of dialogue through the arts.” Spoken Word Namibia will continue 3 February 2016.
Tanya Stroh is an award-winning multi-disciplinary designer and arts practitioner. She is the founder and creative director of Turipamwe Design, and a regular contributor to the Namibian art scene. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.