7 February 2013

Namibia: Ghetto Soldiers, Tales of Survival

Three young protégés of a prominent Namibian artist, Papa Shikongeni are staging their fourth group exhibition, showcasing a collection of art pieces that tell the story of people in the ghettos.

The collection is a testimony and a tribute to the 'soldiers' in the ghetto, ordinary people living under harsh conditions but surviving none the less. It is also a tribute to artists who face struggles in the fight for the recognition and acceptance of all art forms as something more than a silly hobby.

Justus Shaanika AKA Dix, Petrus Amuthenu AKA Jero and Lok Kandjengo AKA Dallaz have experienced life of the ghetto and have faced challenges as artists. Jero expresses his ghetto experience in a sombre and dark manner as can be seen in one of his pieces which has hints of graffiti and street culture. He notes that death, fun and sadness are the main inspirations for his work.

The trio have been working together for five years now and plan on continuing their journey together for at least five more years. Jero urges all Namibians to come and view the exhibition. "Without them (Namibians), I don't think we are going to make it. We need them to support us," he says. He also urges people from the ghetto to make a turn at the gallery as the paintings will serve as a positive reminder that something good can come out of the ghetto. "When we came here, we also came from the ghetto and we want to encourage them to be positive always," he adds.

The individuals used a combination of techniques for their works of art, including spray paint and acrylic paint on canvas, cardboard printing, ink and pen illustrations and oil paintings. Their choice of subject matter is captivating, forcing the viewer to connect with each painting. Their works addresses the day to day life of Namibian communities with some of the works being direct observational studies.

Under the mentorship of Shikongeni, Dallaz, Jero and Dix have used their bond as friends and colleagues to encourage each other in their work. They also tackle logistical issues together and are a clear example that the stereotype of jealous artists is not true for everyone in the trade.

Their exhibition is currently showing at the National Art Gallery of Namibia (NAGN) and can be viewed until February 23.

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