8 February 2013

Namibia: Ghetto Soldiers At the Art Gallery

The seeds sown earlier by Joseph 'Papa' Shikongeni, have now produced fruits in 'Ghetto Soldiers Reloaded', an exhibition that opened at the National Art Gallery of Namibia (NAGN) this week. Upon entering the gallery one is greeted with tales of the 'Kasi' in full colour and such vibrancy that the paintings immediately spread a smile across one's face.

The artists Lox, Dix and Jero, all former students from the John Mufangejo Art Centre (JMAC), have incorporated an interesting combination of techniques, including spray paint and acrylic paint on canvas,card board printing, ink and pen illustrations and oil paintings into a body of work that is stylistic, detailed and vibrant. The title of the exhibition tells stories of the constant battle for survival in the ghetto, the struggle to make something of yourself when circumstances are hard. The stories reflect on the lives of the street kids, how the kids are true soldiers, how resourceful they are and quick on their feet. They can go for many days without food and their instinct for survival is a source of inspiration and admiration for the artists.

The exhibition 'Ghetto Soldiers Reloaded' is the group's 4 th exhibition. The first time the young artists exhibited together was in 2011 at the Katutura Community Centre. They then exhibited at Studio 77 with their mentor and supporter Papa Shikongeni. For the artists art means various things, for Dix it means that art informs his whole life, how he thinks, how he sees and how he goes through life and it changes him. Lok said being creative and coming up with new ideas makes him feel unique and for Jero art brings joy.

When looking at their work, it evokes feelings of happiness and celebration. Their choice of subject matter tends to draw you closer and forces you to connect with it. Their works addresses the day to day life of Namibian communities. Some of the pieces are from direct observational studies.

The exhibition runs until 23 February. Entrance is free.

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