A collection of alternative photographic prints depicting various medicinal plants of the Topnaar and Ju’/Hoansi people, their application and the wealth of wisdom that lies in ancient astuteness. This is what can be expected from Namibian Artist, Writer, Editor, Photographer, Environmental and Social Activist, Marita van Rooyen’s latest exhibition, ‘The Elders Called it Medicine’.
“Having grown up in this wonderfully diverse and scenically beautiful country of ours, I’ve always had a great interest in culture and the natural environment. Over the years I’ve become specifically interested in the variety of flora found within our boundaries, its uses and applications amongst indigenous communities.” Explains Marita whose application to the National Arts Council of Namibia resulted in her transforming this interest into a collection that is about to go on exhibition. “In 2017 the National Arts Council of Namibia put out a call for proposals and I took the chance to apply with a project aimed at enhancing the connection to local traditions and the natural environment, while promoting art as a creative means of researching ethnomedicinal knowledge. I was very honoured to have received the funding and this exhibition is the results of the above idea put into practice.”
“Apart from my own work, the exhibition will also feature works from community members, as it forms part of a larger project to increase awareness on the importance of preserving ethnomedicinal knowledge.”
Sharing her passion and excitement regarding the project, Marita explains, “I’m passionate about the fact that the exhibition will allow exposure to members of some of our country’s most marginalised communities, the San and the Topnaar, and that it creates an alternative platform to showcase their creativity, as well as some of the plants found within their areas that has been used medicinally for many generations.”
“It is important to create a renewed sense of appreciation for traditions and more specifically, for sources of nature that are still at our disposal but often forgotten about, because of modern medicine and ways of life. It is also important to create platforms where people living in far-off corners of our country can be given an opportunity to share their voices and showcase their creative products.”
Marita feels this exhibition is an important part of the narrative of Namibia because, “It is important to create a renewed sense of appreciation for traditions and more specifically, for sources of nature that are still at our disposal but often forgotten about, because of modern medicine and ways of life. It is also important to create platforms where people living in far-off corners of our country can be given an opportunity to share their voices and showcase their creative products.”
Opening this week, Marita notes that viewers of this exhibition will experience art and learning, “As the exhibition features a range of medicinal plants, as depicted both by myself and by community members, it offers a diverse reflection of a local appreciation for medicinal flora. The viewer will hopefully also walk away with a bit of newly acquired knowledge about these plants and their uses.”
‘The Elders Called it Medicine’ opens on the 2nd of February 2018 @ 6pm at the Omba Gallery in Windhoek. The opening will be officiated by Prof Andre du Pisani, who boasts a wide range of expertise, including in the field of indigenous knowledge.