Actofel Ilovu is an artist of diverse talents whose interests manifest in many different forms. For the past few years he has worked at the Namibian Art Association conducting workshops and curating exhibitions. In 2015 Ilovu co-curated ‘Unit’, a group exhibition at the National Art Gallery of Namibia. Ilovu has worked with smoke on paper to create ethereal smoke drawings, as well as working on sturdy metal constructions. Materiality is at the centre of his practice which aligns media and concept. A poignant example is his smoke art, which refers to an intimate relationship between the artist and fire. As a child Ilovu suffered severe burns to his body. He explains, “I fall in love with my scars and I look at myself as an art piece created by that fire. [It] is vice versa now, today I create some pieces with fire.”
In the I See series, Ilovu’s latest body of prints, the artist draws on the motif of the inside of a marula fruit, which looks like two eyes. This semblance of a face within this fruit, traditionally cooked or brewed in the north of Namibia, is exaggerated and stylised, as he creates unique characters. These characters could be understood as an extension of the artist’s own eyes. Ilovu says, “I have eyes to see around me and tell a story about things”.
The ideas explored by the artist in this series refer to increasingly topical themes, relatable to many Namibians and international viewers. In I see Covid 19, we see these marula fruit characters transformed into mask-wearing versions of themselves, reflecting the current shift in our experiences with a global pandemic. I See Three Presidents, referring to the three Namibian presidents who have been elected since the first democratic elections in 1990. With local elections coming up soon, all eyes are on the state as the country reflects on the delivery of promises or lack thereof.
Ilovu works with the idea of vision, and corresponding ideas about subjectivity, acknowledging the subjectivity of looking, experiencing and perceiving. He refers to the Oshindonga saying, “imbandungila mwene ondapo yamukweni hayo yoye”. Ilovu explains, “I believe that what I can see, the third person possibly can’t see. With the I see prints I want to show others what they cannot see”. So, while we are shown a glimpse into the artist’s perception of the world, we are also invited to look at our own act of looking, seeing and experiencing.
View more works by Ilovu here.