An everyday archive of independence

This page shows a selection of various contributions to a small archive of the independence era in Namibia. This archive is a space for the everyday, family photos and personal memories as well as artistic expressions of memory. Official narratives and photo-journalism from this time in history often focused on capturing the pain and suffering of this era. While these narratives play an important role in helping us remember the past they also tell only part of the story. On the 11th of February 2021 we launched an online exhibition called Finding Memories: additions to an everyday archive of independence which formed the basis of most of the contributions you will see below.

The end of apartheid was a huge cause for celebration and by creating this space we hope to provide a glimpse into the everyday lives of people from around that time. For this reason we have made it easy to add images to the archive. All you have to do is contact us and we will talk you through the process. If you have a specific memory you want to share in the form of photography, video, audio or text we will be happy to find a way to add this to the archive . Artworks, performances and any unconventional items are also welcome. 

This archive is cared for by Ndapwa Alweendo, Helen Harris and Gina Figueira. This archive is built on generosity and trust. All the rights for the images in the archive remain with their contributors. Please do not reproduce them in any form without prior written consent.

Contributions

Lok Kandjengo

'Icons & Symbols?' is a cardboard print created by Namibian artist Lok Kandjengo. It formed part of the online exhibition 'Finding Memories: an everyday archive of Independence' which took place...

Ndapwa Alweendo

Ndapwa Alweendo is one of the caretakers of the Everyday Archive of Independence. She is currently working as a freelance writer, editor and project coordinator. Her interests include Namibia’s often...

Petrus Amuthenu

'We Remember' is a large scale painting by Namibian artist Petrus 'Jero' Amuthenu. In the video below we can hear more about the memories and stories that influenced this painting...

Shomwatala Shivute

Four embroidered T-Shirts make up this contribution by Namibian artist Shomwatala Shivute. Originally from the time around Independence, the artist engaged with them more recently through delicate embroidery. These formed...

Tuli Mekondjo

Namibian artist Tuli Mekondjo created a portrait of Mekulu Njokonona for the exhibition ‘Finding Memories: an everyday archive of Independence’ which took place online in February 2021. This exhibition was...

Isabel Katjavivi

Creative interventions into photographs from a family album make up this contribution by Namibian artist Isabel Katjavivi. These artworks were part of the exhibition ‘Finding Memories: an everyday archive of...

Ndinomholo Ndilula

This page shows an artwork by Namibian artist Ndinomholo Ndilula that formed part of the exhibition ‘Finding Memories: an everyday archive of Independence’ which took place online in February 2021....

Frequently asked questions:

If you would like to help us grow this archive with images from your own family albums, or relevant artistic interventions or performances you can email us directly. We will try and make the process as easy as possible. When you get in touch you can let us know a little about your submission. We would also be happy to move the conversation over to Whatsapp if that is easier for you.

We don’t want to be too restrictive in what goes up so there is plenty of leeway if you want to participate! The most important thing is that it should relate directly to the historical period of Independence in Namibia or items/images that pertain to the idea of Namibian Independence. If you have a specific memory you want to share in the form of video, audio or text, we would be happy to find a way to add this to the archive too. We are also very excited about the prospect of you adding an artwork/ performance/ intervention/ unconventional item to the archive. If you would like to do so then please email us about it. If your idea is ambitious and requires funding we will try and support an application for funding to do so.

Absolutely anyone may contribute to the archive so long as their contributions relate to the topic at hand!

The archive runs on little to no money. It is mostly supported by StArt Art Gallery (run by Helen Harris and Gina Figueira) through being hosted on their website. However the archive has also been funded in the past by the National Arts Council of Namibia. We hope to be able to get further funding in the future in order to expand. If we do get funding from other sources we will be sure to add that information here. If you would like to financially, or otherwise, support the archive please email us and we will start a conversation about how best to do so.

The archive web-pages clearly state that ownership of the images remains with the contributor. However with the internet being the wonderful open platform that it is we are acutely aware that we cannot always control how people interact with the content they see. We are strongly committed to protecting your contributions through clarity of communication with those who interact with the archive. For anyone who would like to add to the archive without their contributions going online we are open to having a conversation about how to make this work in whatever way you are most comfortable with. Ndinomohlo Ndilula’s contribution to the archive is an interesting response to this exact issue.

This is a question that we go back and forth on. This project is really an ongoing collection of items/images/artworks/texts/audio/video/stories around a specific idea. We could call it an exhibition, but exhibitions tend to have an end date and we really hope that this project never ends. Perhaps we will re-name it one day when a more appropriate word comes along but for now ‘archive’ feels right.

When we started the project initially we called it a ‘Community Archive’, then we realised that we couldn’t neatly define what we meant by community in this context. Even if we were happy to let that remain vague we weren’t sure that everyone who would like to contribute would be comfortable with the idea of belonging to one community. So we changed it to ‘The Everyday Archive of Independence’. Shortly after that we realised that we weren’t comfortable with what was implied by the word ‘The’ and swapped it out for the word ‘An’. Namibia is full of small and large personal archives, photo albums and collections that exist in private homes and are treasured by individuals and families. We would like to think of the space produced by this project as just one of the many, rather than one of a kind.

The word ‘everyday’ has become really important to us. We want it to be clear from the outset that this space is for the quotidian, for the ideas, picture and stories that might not seem immediately important to everyone but are very deeply important to the people who contribute them and even more important to a larger, expansive understanding of Namibia’s recent and not so recent history.

The Border War ended in 1989 and Namibia officially became an Independent democracy on 21st March 1990. We initially thought that the focus of this archive would be the ten years prior to independence and the ten years after, so around 1980 to 2000. But as the project grew we realised that restrictions on dates would only limit the potential for the space in a way that impoverished it. Because of this we have decided to place no restrictions in terms of dates, and only ask that all contributions relate to the idea of Namibian Independence in some way.

Credits

All the rights for these contributions remain with their originators. Please do not reproduce them in any form without prior written consent.

This archive is cared for by:

Ndapwa Alweendo has an MSocSci in Political and International Studies from the university currently known as Rhodes. She is currently working as a freelance writer, editor and project coordinator. Her interests include Namibia’s often suppressed feminist history, critical race theory, and public mental health.

Helen Harris has a background in sculpture, social anthropology and contemporary curating (BFA University of Cape Town 2013, MA Contemporary Curating Manchester School of Art 2019) She is particularly interested in creating space for local knowledge production, especially in the context of writing Namibian art history. She is a co-founder of StArt Art Gallery.

Gina Figueira is one of the founders of StArt Art Gallery. With a background in fine art (BFA University currently known as Rhodes 2015, MA Art Gallery & Museum Studies University of Leeds), Gina’s interest in visual culture and narrative theory have blended to form a passion for exploring and reflecting on visual memory landscapes.

Many of the contribution to this archive were made possible through support from the National Arts Council of Namibia’s 2020 Covid-19 Relief Fund.