WE KNOW IT IN OUR BONES
a group exhibition

The artworks presented here were created over the course of a year through the SISTER NAMIBIA Artists Activation project. This project commissioned artists to create new work related to feminism in Namibia. Each artist was asked to reflect on a set of circumstances that they already knew intimately: the shape, structure and feeling of living in a country and world steeped with sexisim, homophobia, misogyny, patriarchy and violence. However, just because we know something well, so well that WE KNOW IT IN OUR BONES, does not mean that we are already experts in talking, thinking about and reflecting on it. Through the work of these nine artists we are given an opportunity to reflect on our circumstances, mourn the losses we have suffered, celebrate the progress that has be made and look forward to a future where the feminist ideals of equality are realised. With a long history of racial discrimination from colonial and Apartheid regimes, effective feminism in Namibia is necessarily inclusive of black and queer, non-binary people, women and men. This complex and intersectional vision is reflected in the artworks presented here by HILDEGARD TITUS, PETRINA MATHEWS, NDINOMHOLO NDILULA, BEWISE TJONGA, VITJITUA NDJIHARINE, MEL MWEVI, MICHELLE ISAAK, NAMAFU AMUTSE and BIGG CLIT


For this project curators Helen Harris and Gina Figueira wrote two articles for the SISTER NAMIBIA online magazine in which they reflect on these artworks. The articles can be accessed here: A BRIEF LOOK AT FEMINISM IN NAMIBIAN ART and WHERE DO WE SEE OURSELVES / DEPICTIONS OF VIOLENCE IN ART

This is what Namibian feminism looks like
This is what Namibian feminism looks like

Digital drawing by Hildegard Titus

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This is what Namibian feminism looks like
This is what Namibian feminism looks like

Billboard installed at the Sister Namibia premises in Windhoek

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This is what Namibian feminism looks like
This is what Namibian feminism looks like

Billboard installed at the Sister Namibia premises in Windhoek

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This is what Namibian feminism looks like
This is what Namibian feminism looks like

Digital drawing by Hildegard Titus

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In Windhoek, with recent protests against SGBV and racial discrimination, contemporary artists are adding their visuals and voices to the dialogue. Hildegard Titus chose to celebrate important feminists and activists in the large-scale work “This is what Namibian Feminism Looks Like”. Which was installed in late 2020 on a billboard along Nelson Mandela Avenue in Windhoek. When watching the billboard go up, Titus noted “I never thought I would see the word ‘Feminism’ in such huge letters in Windhoek.” The background of the artwork reads over and over again, “Protect Women, Support Women, Love Women, Believe Women, Transwomen are women”. In a country with such high rates of SGBV and a society (as well as a legal system) that systematically harms women and members of the LGBTQI+ communities, this artwork makes a statement that is even larger than the billboard itself. Watch a video of the billboard being installed HERE. 

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Hildegard Titus is a photojournalist, filmmaker, visual artist and curator based in Windhoek. Her interests include issues of and around gender, identity, culture and race. Titus works as a freelance photo and video journalist for Agence France Presse and The Namibian. With a background in journalism, Titus’ artistic practice also tends to reflect on social issues. The artist uses digital media and collage to create her works, while also referencing more traditional media such as embroidery and textiles as in her latest artwork ‘This is what Namibian feminism looks like’.

 

Titus has held two solo exhibitions, The Politics of Black Hair in 2016 and Us Now in 2018, both in Windhoek, Namibia. The artist has also exhibited in various group exhibitions in Namibia, South Africa, Germany, China and the United Kingdom.

Hildegard Titus

 
Mending the broken telephone - Fingerprints of blood
Mending the broken telephone - Fingerprints of blood

A painting by Petrina Mathews

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Mending the broken telephone - Fingerprints of blood
Mending the broken telephone - Fingerprints of blood

Petrina Mathews with her painting

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Mending the broken telephone - Fingerprints of blood
Mending the broken telephone - Fingerprints of blood

Petrina Mathews with her painting

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Mending the broken telephone - Fingerprints of blood
Mending the broken telephone - Fingerprints of blood

A painting by Petrina Mathews

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Depictions of violence do not necessarily increase our awareness of the issues at stake as we are all already highly aware of them. In fact, these depictions can result in the further normalisation of the violence that we are trying to criticize. This is not to say that thinking about, processing and depicting violence has no place in art. Rather, this process is complicated and requires a great deal of care. An example can be seen in paintings by Petrina Mathews, whose process also acts as a performance. (link to video and artwork). Mathew’s large scale piece “Mending the broken telephone - Fingerprints of blood”, highlights the lack of transparency and communication around the topic of sexual assault and it’s long term effects. Mathews' process is a very physical one: “I use my body to paint, as I can better express myself with every stroke of my hand, stomp of my feet, move in my dance and the rest of my body. My work is an expression and extension of my feelings, emotions, pains and uncomfortable truth. Every painting is filled with the colour of a past feeling and memory." (Mathews, 2020) This physicality and the violence that it alludes to is visible in the gestural nature of the final work as well as the inevitable traces of the artist's hands, feet and finger prints.

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Petrina Mathews is a Namibian artist specialising in painting, specifically painting using her body. Mathews graduated from the College of the Arts in 2019 with a Diploma in Visual Art, specialising in Action Painting. Since graduating, this visual artist has worked on various mural projects, and other skills workshops as well as working in arts organisations like the National Art Gallery of Namibia. Mathews has participated in group exhibitions at the College of the Arts and the National Art Gallery of Namibia, and continues to work on her work as well as contribute to the Namibian arts through her skill sharing and other initiatives.

Petrina Mathews

 

Feminism is too often misunderstood as a ‘women’s issue’. While this not only ignores the complexity of gender identity, it also allows for the patriarchy to persist by relegating it to a zone of issues to be dealt with by one particular part of society, rather than by all of us. The artwork by Ndinomohlo Ndilula, for example, reflects a complicated and broadened perception of feminism as a driver for equality for all cis, trans and non-binary genders. The performance titled “mASCUliN(I)TY” existed in two parts, the first of which encouraged a collaborative reading out loud of the Namibian Combating of Rape Act (No. 8 of 2000). While the second part of Ndilula’s performance took on a more personal exploration of the artist’s own masculinity.

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Ndinomholo is a Windhoek based interdisciplinary artist who is inspired by the myths that keep communities together, and the myths that separate them. Ndinomholo works primarily in the medium of performance art as a theatre actor, a live performance artist “Ondani”, and as a self-taught new performance dramaturg. Ndinomholo is curious about the conceptualization of myths, stories, and the human experience in a future where every African has a smartphone and internet access, and he is currently experimenting with old and new myths and ways of myth-making in a digitally connected inter-planetary community. Ndinomholo is a graduate of the University of Pretoria with an honours degree in drama and is currently working on a masters degree in arts administration from Indiana University. His academic and professional interests lie at the intersection and meeting point of the creative economy, AI technology, and development economics.

Ndinomholo Ndilula

 
Beard it with confidence
Beard it with confidence

Lino-cut by Bewise Tjonga

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Break the chain of abuse
Break the chain of abuse

Lino-cut by Bewise Tjonga

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Gorgeous in all size
Gorgeous in all size

Lino-cut by Bewise Tjonga

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Beard it with confidence
Beard it with confidence

Lino-cut by Bewise Tjonga

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Bewise Tjonga has created a series of four colourful linoleum block prints that cover a range of topics but focus predominantly on body-positivity. In these works Tjonga claims space for people who have consistently been positioned as outsiders, measured against a white cisgender heterosexual ‘normal’. Claiming or taking up space is a feminist concept that encourages self determination in the face of oppressive structures designed not only to maintain a social hierarchy. While three of the four prints depict the road to overcoming systemic violence, one of them, titled “Break the chain of abuse” deals with violence head on, making visible a metaphor for liberation.

Tjongs's artworks will be on display in the exhibtion '#LOVEISLOVE' curated by Hildegard Titus of Efano Efano at Cafe Prestige in Windhoek for the month of June!

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Uerimuna Bewise Tjonga was born in Namibia in 1997. Tjonga graduated from the College of the Arts in 2018, majoring in Visual Arts studies and specialising in printmaking. Her artistic process responds to contemporary issues. The artist works predominantly with themes concerning marginalised communities, from sexuality to rare skin conditions. Tjonga sees her work as taking on an activist role, saying “Through my work I’d like to make a difference”. Tjonga has participated in various group exhibitions in Namibia since 2017.

Bewise Tjonga

 
Femme Reflections 1-6 Installed at The Brewers Market
Femme Reflections 1-6 Installed at The Brewers Market

Drawings etched into mirror by Vitjitua Ndjiharine

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Femme Reflections 1
Femme Reflections 1

Drawing etched into mirror by Vitjitua Ndjiharine

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Vitjitua Ndjiharine with her work
Vitjitua Ndjiharine with her work

Drawings etched into mirror by Vitjitua Ndjiharine

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Femme Reflections 1-6 Installed at The Brewers Market
Femme Reflections 1-6 Installed at The Brewers Market

Drawings etched into mirror by Vitjitua Ndjiharine

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For this work Vitjitua Ndjiharine delved into the Sister Namibia magazine archive and created illustrations that reflected the, still very salient, themes of Sister Namibia’s earliest editions. Inspired by the illustrations from the 1990’s and early 2000’s Ndjiharine was struck by the continued relevance of the messages being shared. Ndjiharine created illustrations in a similar style, using a hand-drawn aesthetic that was then engraved into mirrors. Ndjiharine’s work calls for reflection, asking everyone who sees the work to see themselves in the messages:  “Don’t replace my rights with your religion”, “Keep politics out of my body”, “Say hello to the new dope me”, “We are still at war”, “To uplift one of us it takes all of us” etc.

Ndjiharine's artworks will be on display at the Brewers Market in Windhoek for the months of June and July!

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Vitjitua Ndjiharine is a multidisciplinary visual artist who works across various media to develop strategies of deconstructing and re-contextualizing the pedagogical function of texts and images found within colonial archives. Her interdisciplinary approach utilizes drawing, painting, collage, and site installation as tools that enable a critical engagement with problematic historical content. Vitjitua is a recipient of the Gerda Henkel Foundation research scholarship, allowing her to work in collaboration with the research center “Hamburg’s (Post-)Colonial Legacy”, MARKK and M.Bassy in Hamburg. In 2017 she received her Bachelor's Degree in Studio Art from The City College of New York. Having taken courses in Journalism, Mass Communication and Cultural Anthropology, Vitjitua draws insight from these fields, combining ideas from mass media and visual culture in her body of work. In 2015, her painting "Metropolis" won third prize at the Labor Arts 'Making Work Visible' contest in New York City.

Vitjitua Ndjiharine

 

The multi-disciplinary artist Mel Mwevi reflects on personal experience, creating space for narratives of healing. Through her work, Mwevi tells stories and in so doing claims authorship, relating experiences which are at once personal and recognisable. Speaking about her song, and subsequent video work, ‘Take me back to the womb’, Mwevi describes it as a ‘cry’. In making this cry public through performance we are reminded of the phrase ‘the personal is political’, and are reminded that feminist ideas are often sparked by shared experiences of oppression.

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Mel Mwevi is a creative storyteller from Windhoek, Namibia. Though familiar with many mediums of expression; theatre, music and spoken word poetry are her more well-known mediums. She obtained a BA (Hons) in Live Performance for stage and screen in 2016 and developed a tighter relationship with the world of film. Over the years Mel has written and performed in plays, curated and performed in live music and spoken word shows, facilitated performance workshops and filmed and recorded short visuals. Recently she has reconnected with dance and craftsmanship. “My work and artistry has always been my way of capturing, honouring, celebrating, investigating, archiving, coping and sharing my life experience. Mostly, it is only after the creation of the work that it finds an appropriate space to exist and be taken in. Hopefully it resonates and connects with others too. It’s definitely helped me come to terms with my own personal ‘stuff’. Everything I do is for connection and closeness.”

Mel Mwevi

 
Sister Power
Sister Power

Mixed media artwork by Michelle Isaak

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One Wing
One Wing

Mixed media artwork by Michelle Isaak

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Artworks installed at The College of the Arts
Artworks installed at The College of the Arts

By Michelle Isaak

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Sister Power
Sister Power

Mixed media artwork by Michelle Isaak

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At the core of her practice Michelle Isaak looks for value in discarded things. She says; “The saying that "One person's trash is another one's treasure" has been imprinted on my eyes, my heart and my soul.” Her work grapples with childhood trauma, acceptance and recovery, creating visual metaphors with old newspapers, cardboard and other found objects. These three works each speak to an aspect of her experience with abuse and her observations of the effects of abuse on those around her. In the work ‘Sister Power’, we see a set of amorphous silhouettes, each standing for one of her five sisters. Through this work Isaak presents us with a vision of abstracted solidarity and support. ‘Personal Concealment’ on the other hand looks at the isolating nature of trauma and how difficult it is to share these experiences. ‘One Wing’ on the other hand shows the idea of freedom through flight but also the impossibility of achieving this with only one wing.

Isaak's artworks will be on display at the The College of the Arts main campus in Windhoek for the months of June and July!

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Michelle Isaak is a visual artist who uses a variety of often recycled materials to create her dynamic artworks. Isaak graduated from the College of the Arts, Windhoek with a Diploma in Visual Art in 2019. Isaak’s work is inspired by personal experiences as well as an exploration of the materiality of her media. The artist makes use of newspaper and cardboard in much of her work, creating folded patterns that make a unique topography on the surface of her artworks. As well as working with recycled materials, Isaak is also a painter and has created many murals that can be seen in public and private spaces in Windhoek. The artist works as an instructor on various projects that encourage social and economic development through creative media. Isaak has participated in many group exhibitions locally.

Michelle Isaak

 
Everywhere, May 2021, Swakopmund, Namibia - 1
Everywhere, May 2021, Swakopmund, Namibia - 1

Digital photography by Namafu Amutse

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Everywhere, May 2021, Swakopmund, Namibia - 2
Everywhere, May 2021, Swakopmund, Namibia - 2

Digital photography by Namafu Amutse

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Everywhere, May 2021, Swakopmund, Namibia - 6
Everywhere, May 2021, Swakopmund, Namibia - 6

Digital photography by Namafu Amutse

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Everywhere, May 2021, Swakopmund, Namibia - 1
Everywhere, May 2021, Swakopmund, Namibia - 1

Digital photography by Namafu Amutse

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For this series of photographs Namafu Amutse collaborated with Hidegard Titus. She says “Namibian Feminism is both the small and big acts of service displayed on a daily basis to show support to women in our communities. It is the people who organise events to pass on the microphone to women instead of trying to be the ‘’voice for the voiceless’’ or encouraging little girls that their goals and aspirations are as valid as that of their male counterparts.” Like Titus, Amutse has used this opportunity to celebrate feminism and specifically the everyday actions that individuals take to achieve a more equitable society. Amutse writes “Namibian feminism is everywhere, because it is you, me, your teacher, your doctor, your sister, your neighbour and even a complete stranger... The concept of ‘Everywhere’ dives into how 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. This concept, however, acknowledges their existence and the impact that they have on society by living the instinctive lifestyle of woman empowerment.”

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Namafu Amutse is a multidisciplinary artist who explores art forms filmmaking, photography, directing and writing. She started photographing around September of 2019 and has since created a number of photography concepts centering black people with the main theme being Afrofuturism inspired by artists such as Trevor Stuurman, Manthe Ribane and Masiyaleti Mbewe to name a few. Her work is fuelled by Southern African tradition, feminism and Afrofuturism. She is a self taught artist currently studying towards a Bachelors of Education Honours in English and German at the University of Namibia. Born in 1998 in Walvis Bay, Namibia and works as a freelance photographer. In October - November 2020, Namafu had her first solo exhibition titled Bright Eyes Into Afrofuturism which took place at Cafe Prestige curated by Hildegard Titus of Efano Efano Gallery.

Namafu Amutse

 
Lunar Cycle
Lunar Cycle

Digital photography by BIGG CLIT

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Felt Pussy 1
Felt Pussy 1

Digital photography by BIGG CLIT

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Onkwanambwa 2
Onkwanambwa 2

Digital photography by BIGG CLIT

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Lunar Cycle
Lunar Cycle

Digital photography by BIGG CLIT

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A substantial amount of feminist art seeks to claim space where space has been denied. This space exists not only in the content that artists choose to produce, but also in the act of producing. Historically, for example, the female body has been viewed through a patriarchal gaze that either violates or eroticises it, or both. The artist BIGG CLIT, who has been active in the Namibian art scene for many years, recently produced a series of photographs titled ‘Felt Pussies’. The works are fashioned out of soft pink, red and brown felt, and photographed against their own body. These soft and delicate felt-works and the photographs of them are both intimate and open; through them we see a vision of female genitalia lovingly crafted and proudly displayed. Images like this are examples of a feminist gaze which directly challenges harmful and oppressive narratives.

Some of BIGG CLIT's artworks will be on display in the exhibtion '#LOVEISLOVE' curated by Hildegard Titus of Efano Efano at CAFE PRESTIGE in Windhoek for the month of June!

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BIGG CLIT’s first venture into visual art takes the form of their participation in Sister Namibia’s Artist Activations. BIGG CLIT is a self taught and experimental multidisciplinary artist with a background in drag and performance art. While this is the first showcase of their visual art, they have been performing since 2019. The artist starts with the concept and makes use of whatever media pushes that concept the furthest. They explain “no boxes, I want to and will create whatever, however calls”. BIGG CLIT is also a Drag Queen persona who has performed at two Drag Nights hosted by Out-Right Namibia.

BIGG CLIT