Spotlight on Namafu Amutse

Namafu Amutse works primarily with digital photography and videography. Her creative process is inspired by tangible objects as well as ideas relating to her experiences, ideologies and identity. In an interview with writer Masiyaleti Mbewe, Amutse explains “Many of my concept ideas come from seeing materials, designs, jewellery and make up”. The artist often uses found and made objects in her photography and video work, taking them as inspiration and building upon them to create further imagery and narratives.

Amutse’s work tends to position the human figure at its centre, exploring portraiture and the human experience. In particular, her photographs foreground the Black experience. She describes, “My photography often comments on current social or political issues, specifically with the intention of empowering and celebrating the subjects. It aims to uplift and amplify the voice, experience and hopes of the Black person.”

‘Everywhere’ is a series of photographs the artist created as part of the ‘We know it in our bones’ project and exhibition co-facilitated by StArt Art Gallery and Sister Namibia. For this project Amutse worked in collaboration with Hildegard Titus. These photographs incorporate both found and made objects like the masks and frames, as well as digital illustrations made by Titus. Masks, as well as glasses suggest obscurity rather than clarity, motifs that are present in a lot of Amutse’s images. There is a tension that comes from offering the viewer so much in terms of the portrait, and indeed in this series a self-portrait, and then concealing identifying features of the face. This links to the conceptual basis of this body of work which highlights her view that “feminism and the act of empowering women is not individualised, but more so widespread and acted out daily by people who will not be celebrated or even so choose not to be”.

In the series ‘Soft’, we are offered a glimpse into the relationship between three brothers. These scenes are taken at the seaside in Amutse’s hometown, Swakopmund. There is intimacy and levity in these photographs which fulfil the artist’s desire to “[contribute] towards diversifying images of Black masculinity”. The title of the series speaks to this intention. Amutse explains, “The visuals that we often encounter concerning Black boys and Black men, portray the constant stereotypes of violence, aggression, and hypersexualisation, dehumanising the Black man and making him feel as if he is a one-dimensional being in a world where it is so clear that our existence is multifaceted.”

Namafu Amutse (b. 1998) is a self taught multidisciplinary artist from Swakopmund, Namibia. She is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Education Honours degree in English and German at the University of Namibia. Her work is fuelled by Southern African tradition, feminism, and Futurism and her focus is on centering black perspectives. In October 2020, Amutse had her first solo exhibition titled ‘Bright Eyes Into Afrofuturism’ curated by Efano Efano Gallery, followed by the group exhibition in June 2021 ‘We Know It In Our Bones’ curated by Start Art Gallery and Sister Namibia. Earlier in October 2021, her artwork was exhibited in Dubai at the first edition ‘Africa Speaks-54: Transforming The Future of Africa Art’ Exhibition. Amutse is the 2021 Visual Arts Inaugural Winner of the Bank Windhoek Doek Literary Awards for her photography series ‘Chrysalis’, first published in Doek Literary Magazine’s 4th issue. In December 2021, her work ‘Soft’ was published in the 4th issue of Lolwe Magazine. In January 2022, Amutse was selected to join the 5th Edition of Art Connects Women as Namibia’s Ambassador in Dubai and in March 2022 exhibited her photograph titled ‘Sapphire’, curated by Zee Arts Gallery. In March 2022, Amutse exhibited her work ‘Chrysalis’, ‘Pandemic19’, ‘Sister’, ‘Ocean’s Pearl’ and ‘Print’ as part of the EPIPHANY group exhibition curated by The Holy Art Gallery in London.

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