Namibia: National Art Gallery Reopens Reflecting On 30 Years

After its official closure on 16 March in the wake of Covid-19, the National Art Gallery of Namibia (NAGN) has reopened its doors.

The exhibition still on display shuttered after just 11 days of showing is 'Reflect: Namibia at 30 Years of Independence'.

The showcase considers pre and post-independent Namibia, the future of Namibian art, the nation at large and the artist's role in society after accepting some Covid-19 housekeeping.

Hand sanitiser is sprayed into open palms by a masked guard at the door. Each visitor's name, address and cellphone number is entered into a ledger in case they need to be traced, and signs on the floor demand social distancing.

Inside the gallery, patrons are required to wear masks and Xs with one metre between them mark the spots from which visitors can view the art. As far as Covid-19 protocol is concerned all seems well, and if rules are strictly enforced, it seems patrons can visit the gallery relatively safely.

Full disclosure: This was not the case when a man followed me around the gallery trying to start a face-to-face conversation which NAGN signage discourages but did not help enforce, and I had to raise my voice to get him to respect social distancing.

Should you be visiting the gallery, enforce your rights, respect social distancing and be sure to maintain a safe viewing environment for all.

All Covid-19 protocol observed, 'Reflect: Namibia at 30 years of Independence' sees the NAGN proudly present the results of a call-out which received 148 submissions of which 89 artworks are exhibited in the main gallery, foyer and in the Pashuka multipurpose venue of the gallery.

A diverse and multifaceted offering in which reflections veer from the celebratory to the lamenting, the historical to the news of the day, the exhibition tells the story of a nation narrated by its veterans, youth and the artists in between.

In Petrus Amuthenu's charcoal and oil 'Last 50', the equivalent note is curled into a shot glass and speaks to the issue of alcoholism not far from artist Elisa Nghidishange's eerie display of masks titled 'The Masks of Fishrot'.

Vividly turning the viewer's attention from some lamentable elements of Namibia's present to the heroism of the past, artists Vitjitua Ndjiharine and Amuthenu display 'Their Tears Water Us' and 'Forgotten Ones,' respectively. The former stating 'Whomst are we? The children of giants. Their sweat, their labour was for us. Yet we wait for equality". The latter presenting a harrowing image of war as tanks proceed, a soldier weeps over his fallen comrade and a hut burns while artist Jeremia Petrus depicts Omugulugwombashe in media res.

Celebratory in 'Omake' by Peter Mwahalukange in which lino print hands clap as well as in Salinde Willem's block print dance and Kabelo Kim Modise's linoleum block 'The Founding Father'. A mirror in Paul Kiddo's lively acrylic rendering of a minibus stop in Ovamboland, Valcerine Mouton's photograph of an old man cupping a few coins titled 'Defying Poverty', Natangwe Kapembe's 'Meekulu Vatekuleni', Frans Nambinga's rustic 'The Way for Education' as well as in ecstatic, youthful pencil portraits by Lindley Hoaeb and Leonard Michael Abrahams' oil painting of 'The Bushman David', the exhibition also features Namibia's natural heritage as painted by Barbara Pirron, Gerrit Schouwenburg and Frans Uunona.

Abstract in a collage by Anne Lacheiner-Kuhn, Elvis Garoëb's beaded 'Mama Africa' and Giovanni Martin's mixed media 'Pan African Heritage', 'Reflect' which, among others, includes artworks by Papa Shikongeni, Rudolph Seibeb, Nicky Marais, Ismael Shivute, Trudi Dicks, Pieter Basson, Trianus Nakale, Clemens Gowaseb and Erik Schnack is on display until 25 July and begins a cautious return to the local art world that was.

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