23 November 2012

Namibia: COTA Students a Creative Cut Above the Rest

THE thing staggering through a 50 percent sale and walking through the College of the Arts (Cota) Student exhibition have in common is that they both require you cut up your credit cards before a cursory glance tempts you to bankrupt yourself completely.

Buoyed by brilliant blending and dazzling in its almost blanket attention to detail, this student exhibition is a marvellous showcase of affordable artistic expression suitable for any wall in want of a sophisticated square.

Upon walking into the clinical bowels of the Katutura Community Arts Centre (KCAC) one of the first things you will see is a Frans Nambinga sky. trapped under a high roof and in-between the tiled floor, his blended heavens storm moodily on canvas as the sun shines maniacally just a few metres away.

Creative, colourful and silently smouldering with a maturity that belies his student status, Nambinga’s ‘Beautiful Day’, encompasses all that makes this exhibition a showcase of the most interesting, skilled and intrepid student artists in the city.

Nambinga continues to impress in pieces such as ‘the Blessing Fire’, and ‘the Hand of a Slave’, which both churn colours into strange and striking works open to both envy and interpretation.

In ‘the Blessing Fire’, which depicts the hint of two heads amidst the white smoke of a ritualistic flame, Nambinga uses small rocks to add texture to an already intriguing expression. In ‘the Hand of a Slave’, there is a hint of a white hand in chains amidst a controlled square of colour which continues in his preferred cryptic though colourful aesthetic.

After viewing a few Nambinga pieces, his penchant for vivid colours, beautiful blending and his affinity for clouds becomes apparent in a way that begins to form a hallmark that balances style with creativity so as not to recur on ennui-inducing loop.

As is becoming apparent, the third year student’s collection is an idiosyncratic and sublime offering of the type which causes one to spend three paragraphs of a group exhibition review extolling its virtues while looking forward to his work clear of the classroom.

Another Frans of note is Frans Uunona whose vivid works titled ‘We are Protected’, My Sunshine’ and ‘treat Nature with Love’, offer immersive insight into a mind that seems to overflow with ideas.

In ‘My Sunshine’, he creates a strange sun swimming in a sea of sky while ‘We are protected’, is a moving piece depicting two people enshrined in the bright yellow folds of cloth. ‘treat Nature with Love’, is a painted collage of a large crying eye peeking out of a flower like a cowering Mother earth and all three stand out in an exhibition filled with pleasing pieces.

Moving upstairs, there is more from the two Frans’ amidst a neat and exciting exhibition space filled with everything from a cleverly kitsch lampshade made entirely of lager lids by Selma Iipinge and an eerily unmarked cyborg sculpture with a cardboard propeller jutting out of its grey cheeks.

In terms of two-dimensional expression, recently published comic book artist, tafadzwa Gatsi’s ‘Abstract Landscape’, is a quirky and cute addition to the space. Depicting a meta meandering which presents large colourful beans in a background of bean pods, Gatsi’s work stands out in terms of texture and interesting use of relief.

Once one has taken a turn around the room, Selma Iipinge, of lager lid fame, proves she is more than just the lady of the lamp with ‘Hand Roots’. Neatly and painstakingly incorporating beads and sticks into an interesting abstraction, Iipinge’s offerings are precise and pleasant.

Joining Iipinge in the lamp business is Petrus Armas whose voodoo chic lighting is a functional sculpture. Odd and appealing to a certain type of person, Armas’ lamp would be a perfect prop for some scary cinema.

the magpie among all the shiny objects is Jazine Fischer whose creative collages piece together torn pieces of magazines and newspapers to create surprisingly symmetrical portraits.

though villagescapes have been done to death, one young man who breathes life into the subject is Moses Haipinge in ‘Harvest time’. Depicting an Ondelela clad woman walking behind a jean clad lady from the point of view of behind some maize plants, Haipinge succeeds in creating a fabulously photographic feeling to a painted piece.

In terms of wall art, Sunya Beukes is of note. Her hangings spelling out the world ‘love’, both beaded and with an embossed effect are funky and feminine feats worthy of any teenager’s wall.

New media design is another cool inclusion in this year’s exhibition and the work of Gerson Ntusi, Charlton engelbrecht and Winnie Moloi is competent and neat but needs a dash more imagination. engelbrecht’s contribution includes a stylized black and white calendar which incorporates icons like Michael Jackson which makes for a cool countdown.

Joining him in the faculty of New Media Design is just published comic book artist Samuel Dumeni whose design of ‘Wild etosha’, is just as cute and cartoony as his work in ‘Speechbubble.’

Currently, and much like my summation of the graduate exhibition earlier this year, Cota’s textiles leave plenty to be desired.

Perhaps this is why most of them are hung way above eye level near the eaves of the KCAC instead of at ground level for regard... or ridicule.

However, one textile creator who gives the section hope is Gideon Kashile whose beads on material created some fun and funky fabric.

With textiles being a bit of a letdown in what is generally an outstanding exhibition, Cota would do well to encourage creativity in cloth to complement and provide material to its outstanding fashion designers.

thus concludes my small cache of criticism of an exhibition that currently takes the cake as student exhibition of the year. Make your way to the KCAC until November 30, to amble around an exhibition well worth a visit and a purchase... or five.a

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