Shomwatala Shivute and Nelago Shilongoh,
Shomwatala Shivute and Nelago Shilongoh collaborated to create the 'Ma Ndili' photographic series in 2017. Bringing together a series of images confronting the continued presence of colonial era statues in Windhoek and the artists’ relationship with them. 'Ma Ndili' means ‘Where I am’ in Oshiwambo. Now in 2020 Shivute and Shilongoh re-visit this series drawing out and emphasising the patriarchal context in which they work:
“We speak from our own lived experiences as young black women. In a country whose police force brutally attacked unarmed peaceful protestors on 10 October 2020. In a country where monuments that celebrate men who slaughtered our Forefathers and Mothers are still standing proud on pedestals, overlooking the city. We speak from a place of pain, a place of unrest and yet we also speak with love, strength and hope of a better tomorrow. 'Ma Ndili' is a reflection on our positioning as young black women who grew up in Windhoek, Namibia, looking at the historical landscape of the city, with its many remnants from the colonial era. At this moment however, we are speaking from our position as women who share a collective struggle for survival in this country.” (Shomwatala Shivute and Nelago Shilongoh)
Shomwatala Shivute graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts in 2014 and a BA Honours in Curatorship in 2018. Shivute worked as a curator at the National Art Gallery of Namibia from 2015-2020 and is now the Curator and manager of the National Maritime Museum of Namibia.
Nelago Shilongoh holds an honours degree in Drama Studies and Visual Culture from the University of Namibia and is currently pursuing an Masters in Visual Culture. Shilongoh is a theatre maker and performer and received the award for the Best Staged Play in 2017 at the Namibian Film and Theatre Awards which she directed. Since February 2019, Shilongoh has been employed as the Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Namibia.
"I play a sonic repertoire of silence, noise, love and struggle songs from Southern Africa as a form of resisting the systemic erasure/exclusion/othering of knowledges present on the margins and in the cracks of colonial nationalist archives." Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja
This soundscape, 'Ondaanisa yo Pomudhime' [Dance of the Rubber Tree], composed by Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja includes Namibian indigenous music, stories and poetry recordings (1950s) by Ernest and Ruth Dammann, currently housed at Basler Afrika Bibliographien. These sonic remnants are used to trace presence and transgression as embodied by African Cultural Workers as a struggle against erasure of their cultural work.
According to Mushaandja “I play a sonic repertoire of silence, noise, love and struggle songs from Southern Africa as a form of resisting the systemic erasure/exclusion/othering of knowledges present on the margins and in the cracks of colonial nationalist archives. This collection of sonic works across time is meant to map African radical imaginations. Sound is considered for its critical usefulness as a praxis of borderlessness.” This relates to the title of the work as the rubber tree or 'Omudhime' is indigenously used in cleansing and memorial moments of border crossing.
Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja is a performer, educator and writer with practice and research interests in the role of embodied and spatial archives in movement formation. Mushaandja is also a PhD artist at the Centre for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies at the University of Cape Town studying Queer Praxis in Oudano Archives. His recent performance Dance of the Rubber Tree is a cross-disciplinary critical queer intervention in museums, theatre and archives in Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, Cameroon and Namibia. He is also involved in curative projects from time to time, such as the John Muafangejo Season (2016/2017), Operation Odalate Naiteke (2018/2020) and Owela Festival (2019).
Material originally recorded in 1953/4 Omaruru, Okahandja, Makunda, Okombahe and Eenhana.
Contributing Cultural Workers: Bernhard Kahiko, Elisabeth Kahiko, Kasuko Hiigo, Asnat Mutanga, Monika Komomungondo, Adelheid Mbuandjou, Augustineum Choir, Anton Keib, Emilie Gabese, Isaschar Kuiseb, Adam //Horeib, Adolf /Nowaseb, Lena Fender. Editing and mixing by Loudima.Dreamer @ DoorTwo Media.
"What is our role and responsibility in changing the way our stories are told?" Silke Berens and Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja
The facilitator training took place in Windhoek at the College of the Arts Theatre in Robert Mugabe Avenue. The facilitators included; Esmeralda Cloete, Fellipus Negodhi, Hildegard Titus, Kambezunda Ngavee, Keith Vries, Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja, Nguundja Kandjii, Prince Kamaazengi Marenga, Silke Berens and Veronique Mensah.
"The overall goal for the facilitator training was to support the artists in generating authentic and individual approaches/ideas for their planning and facilitating of the community art interventions. By introducing the artists to some of the modalities of drama and art therapy through first-hand processes, a personal and individual engagement with the themes at hand was encouraged. Through a critically reflexive engagement with aspects of critical pedagogy, the facilitators relied on Paulo Freire’s methods and ideas of thinking about education of the oppressed. This foundation also served a lot as an ideological basis and principles for the workshop processes.
The workshop methods included providing experiential and creative impulses towards reflection, in the form of expressive arts media such as arts and crafts materials, writing, performance and storytelling. An example of these types of methods- working with personal as well as collective narratives about Namibian history- was the Re-storying of an historic event and/or imagination of a futuristic scenario.
What is our role and responsibility in changing the way our stories are told? This question resonated deeply with all persons involved, and was a central theme running through the facilitator workshop and the entire FWDWS project."
(Silke Berens and Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja)
“Paint becomes story, time releases its tight hold and sometimes, glimpses of healing occur.” Silke Berens
Namibian artist Silke Berens works with themes around trauma as characterised in both personal and collective memory and experience. Berens works predominantly with oil paints on canvas. In her work she deals with the intimate relationship between violence and healing. She explains, “Paint becomes story, time releases its tight hold and sometimes, glimpses of healing occur”. Berens works in a way that is both abstract and figurative, creating scenes reminiscent of dreams, or indeed nightmares. The artist states, “From this journey, I narrate wounds, address absences, and imagine dreams”. Alongside the artists’ creative process, Berens is also interested in “somatic approaches to recovery and healing”.
Namibian painter Silke Berens has been facilitating expressive and fine arts courses and workshops for 20 years, alongside a regular schedule of group and solo art exhibitions. Her current research and practice interests are critical pedagogy, collective/historical trauma, and art therapy. Berens’ painting practice has always run parallel with her passion for creative and somatic approaches to recovery and healing. The artist is currently busy with a body of work exploring coloniality from a personal and ancestral point of view.
"Art doesn’t rot…" Prince Kamaazengi Marenga
Prince Kamaazengi Marenga,
'Ovizire vyo mambo' [Shadows of our tongue], by Prince Kamaazengi Marenga consists of an illustrated one of his poems on paper with miniature sketches. These drawings accompany the text in order to give it ‘weight’. Marenga recounts that his earliest artistic experiments took place on paper in the form of portrait drawings. “Then I started adding little captions, a few words to the drawings, and the p.o.e.t that is me was discovered by myself.” (Prince Kamaazengi Marenga). It is unsurprising then that he thinks of his poetry as ‘word-drawings’. “What I see, I say and what I say, I sing.” (Prince Kamaazengi Marenga). Drawing from a contemplative psychological approach, Marenga sees the subconscious healing possibilities of his poetry.
Prince Kamaazengi Marenga is a Namibian poet and self-taught multidisciplinary artist. He was born in the year of the drought. His poetry is described as “A road of rediscovering one’s humanity pursued through a re-connection with one’s ancestry, an ancestry that espouses the love for multiplicity of being.” In early 2020, Marenga independently published his first collection of poems titled ‘P-O-E-M-S [Pieces Of Enlightenment Molding Society]’. He has also recently published ‘The Rose That Grew From Concrete: Notes From Kalakuta’. He worked briefly at the Pan Afrikan Centre of Namibia as a Media Consultant as well as a free-lance journalist for The Southern Times (a Namibia-Zimbabwe Newspaper). He also worked on a documentary film ‘Waterberg to Waterberg’, funded by the Namibia Film Commission which traced the footsteps of Samuel Maherero and the Herero Exodus of 1904 as they fled from the German Colonial General, Lothar Von Trotha’s extermination orders.
"Most of the participants were learning of the atrocities of 1904/08 for the first time but the workshop triggered something of a renaissance or a rebirth of spirit. They ’spoke’ through paint on cloth, ink on paper and through their voices as instruments of change." Prince Kamaazengi Marenga
The Omaheke region workshop took place at the Omaheke Regional Library Resource Centre in Gobabis. This workshop was facilitated by Prince Kamaazengi Marenga and Nguundja Kandjii. The participants of the workshop were out of school youth taking introduction to art classes with a local teacher (Joans Araeb, Ricardo Baardman, Immanuel Tjipanga, Dean Rous, Zelda Modise, Wolradt Rivaldo Sithole, Tjarirove Tjikuzu, Pujehasora Ndjavera, Deon Kous).
The workshop structure encouraged participants to embody their learning and sharing, through using movement to communicate. Part of the workshop centered on sharing stories around a make-believe fireplace, setting the scene for storytelling while delving into difficult topics including the colonial gaze. Facilitator Marenga notes, “The... workshop offered space to pause and critically reflect on social construct and education in Namibia 30 years after independence. What came out from the very onset was the impact/the weight of the politicization of education and the social space on the collective psyche of the people.” Participants wrote and spoke poetry, created short plays and read aloud from books such as Mama Penee: Transcending the Genocide by Uazuvara Ewald Kapombo Katjivena.
Upon reflecting on the workshop, Prince Kamaazengi Marenga explained: “Selective memory. What to remember and what not to remember. The damage that colonialism dealt has been well kept and nourished by the architectures of Namibian democracy… Most of the participants were learning of the atrocities of 1904/08 for the first time but the workshop triggered something of a renaissance or a rebirth of spirit. They ‘spoke’ through paint on cloth, ink on paper and through their voices as instruments of change… Art reflects our history and documents the crucial component of our lives. We need more of these engagements.”
"Through these different installments of 'Ovizire-Somgu / From Where Do You Speak?' working together has assisted in raising awareness of histories that have been suppressed, while simultaneously celebrating diverse knowledge systems and memory processes." Nicola Brandt
For almost a century the Reiterdenkmal – a bronze equestrian statue positioned on a prominent hill close to the old German fort in Windhoek – monumentalized a devastating form of historical erasure. Located on the same site during the Namibian genocide of 1904-1908 was a prisoner-of-war camp where Herero and Nama were kept under extremely brutal conditions. In contrast to this patriarchal symbol of white supremacy, there was no material evidence or recognition to the countless victims of colonial brutality. Until it was removed, the monument’s prominent position was seen as an ethical and visual assault by many and represented a dark chapter in the country’s history.
Through her work, the Namibian artist of German ancestry continues to interrogate her own positionality and the memory politics of her background, especially when it comes to reckoning with this painful past. She is invested in how conversations and interventions around these issues and sites might assist in mobilizing struggles for acknowledgement and revisionist histories, and ultimately lead to a more inclusive and equitable landscape.
Nicola Brandt is a Namibian artist who uses a cross-disciplinary approach to critique the memory culture of German colonialism and how it is situated in place. Her work has been shown locally and internationally in solo and group exhibitions. Her book ‘Landscapes Between Then and Now: Recent Histories in Southern African Photography, Video and Performance Art’ was published by Bloomsbury Press and Routledge in 2020. Brandt has a doctorate in fine art from the University of Oxford.
"As an artist, I try to relate to the events of the past and work to uncover this narrative that was intentionally hidden for so many years."
'Pathway to death' by Kambezunda Ngavee is a mixed media sculpture that remembers the 1904-1908 genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama communities by the German colonial administration. Specifically, this installation makes reference to the notorious extermination order issued by German colonial general Lothar von Trotha. The consequence of this order was the killing of unarmed Ovaherero people, forcing many to try to escape across the Kalahari desert. Many died from hunger and thirst on what would become the infamous trail of bones across the harsh desert environment.
The Ovaherero and Nama people who were captured, were taken to concentration camps where many died of ill-treatment and illness. These camps were used as labour camps, with Ovaherero and Nama people being forced to work on construction of the railway lines and factories. Pathway to death recalls how people were worked to death in these camps, suffering under the violence of the colonial regime.
“I try to express the cruel mindset of the German colonial troops, who pursued unarmed innocent people and forced them into the desert. They had to undertake a long walk for survival with this predator behind them into the Kalahari. As an artist, I try to relate to the events of the past and work to uncover this narrative that was intentionally hidden for so many years.”
Kambezunda Ngavee is a Namibian sculptor working predominantly with marble and soapstone to create his installations. Ngavee has a Diploma in Visual Arts from the College of the Arts, Namibia. The artist held his first solo exhibition ‘Set in Stone’ in 2018, and has participated in many group exhibitions locally. Ngavee currently works at WHUDA Marble Art Namibia.
"We need to accept what happened in the past, we cannot change what happened and we need to reconcile and find possible ways of restoring peace in our community." Kambezunda Ngavee
The art and history workshop offered in the Otjozondjupa region took place at the Okakarara Trade Fair Center. This workshop was facilitated by Kambezunda Ngavee, Fellipus Negodhi and Golden Nambazu Katjatako. The participants of the workshop were a mixture of school going youth, vocational school learners and some local vendors (Uhonga Kaure, Shina Tjikuzu, Ratjindua Tjehiua, Nanguei Kasuto, Michelle Mbaha, Mbitjita Katupose, Mbinaune Mungendje, Mangundu Mangundu, Kavijenene Verokoha, Jepender Kazapua, Grace Mbueza, Elly Kaurari, Collin Ngujapeua, Viomini Kapukare, Tuajoroka Kazapua, Tjeripo Kamuzeua, Sotorora Tjizepa, Penouua Kahivua, Ngaundje Maverijono, Michael Kapukare, Melody Katjuuande).
During the workshops, dialogue flowed freely about the colonial and Apartheid history of Namibia. The workshop consisted of many activities, including reading, sharing poetry and creating artworks. Participants watched the documentary Colonialism: A Case Study by Namibia Media Initiative and took turns sharing their artistic interpretations and their thoughts about the complex history and issues of reparations.
Facilitator Kambezunda Ngavee noted that this was “an inspirational experience with the youth from Okakarara, to such an extent that the teenagers in the group gave a very positive dimension to the future.” Ngavee explained that while this workshop focused on exploring the past, including the violence that continues to play a role in independent Namibia, the discussion quickly turned to the future and the need for transformation. Kambezunda says that if we are to move forward then “we need to accept what happened in the past, we cannot change what happened and we need to reconcile and find possible ways of restoring peace in our community”. Through workshops like this one discussion is fostered and histories can be laid bare.