Reflecting on my journey with StArt – Gina Figueira

I remember the evening in almost-winter of 2017 that Helen and I met up at the Heinitzburg in Windhoek, ordered drinks and got our notepads out to start making plans for the opening of our very own gallery. Having lost my father a few months earlier, 2017 had started off as a very difficult year. I was excited at the prospect of putting my energy into creating something positive after experiencing such loss. My father ran his own businesses all my life. Having spent afternoons, weekends and school holidays around him specifically when he owned Studio 77 (which operated often as a gallery as well as a photography studio), I felt myself drawing on many things I had learned from this as we started setting up StArt Art Gallery. In the months that followed I felt so connected to my father, and was driven by the feeling that he would be spurring me on in this endeavour.

Helen at the Heinitzburg, 2017

In Helen I had found a colleague with a shared vision while we worked together at the National Art Gallery of Namibia. I had also reconnected with an old friend who was a large part of my support network when my father was ill and then when he died. These worlds conjoined as we embarked on this journey together and working with Helen every day toward this shared goal created space for me to grow in my professional life and heal in my personal life.

Our first exhibition opened in late September to an incredible crowd and things have been pretty much non-stop ever since. From curating and hosting exhibitions, to facilitating commissions and consulting with corporates about growing their collections of contemporary Namibian art, we strove to explore every opportunity to celebrate and showcase the artists we are passionate about. We’ve had to be adaptable to change, from leaving our first premises in Windhoek and running the gallery remotely while studying overseas to re-imagining the gallery during the pandemic upon our return. We’re constantly reflecting on what we do, how we do it and why we do it to ensure that StArt remains a vehicle through which we can support and grow the visual arts industry in Namibia.  

It has been challenging, but exceedingly rewarding work since that evening at the Heinitzburg. After almost 6 years of living and breathing StArt Art Gallery, I will be stepping away from the business at the end of June. It has been a very difficult decision to make, but it comes after many substantial changes in my personal circumstances over the last year and a bit. I give thanks to everyone who has been part of my journey with StArt. I remain one of StArt’s biggest cheerleaders, and look forward to its continued success working with and for Namibian artists and art lovers.