‘Just’ A Group Exhibition – 28 April 18h00 – National Art Gallery of Namibia

Just exhibit3 (2)

Maria Caley

Born in Namibia, 1982

Textile artist Maria Caley finds creating textiles therapeutic, especially ‘in the way the process takes over’, she explains. She continues transforming until she is satisfied with the outcome, which is ‘usually a compromise’, she says. Over the years her textile making processes developed into an intimate relationship between herself, her hands and the material. She is content with her outcomes once the textiles evoke in her feelings of serenity and treasury. At that point it becomes impossible for her to cut up her textiles to make a garment.

Maria’s usual way of work over the years has been to use a textile, transform it with colour, print, embellishment and perhaps adding texture. Recently she found herself deeply reflecting on her creations, what she makes with her hands, and the value she connects to her work. A frustration she encountered recently is that she feels her audiences do not see or value her textiles when they are used in her fashion. As a result, she questioned perceptions of beauty and a slow process of destroying her perceived beauty, deconstructing or taking apart her garments and textiles, begun. Maria says:

This process was challenging as I found myself trying to control the destruction. I often felt detached from the textile in my hands. Usually the textures and what I feel excite me as I start working, but in the recent processes of destruction it was as if I did not want to feel. Perhaps the fear of having nothing left from my textiles and garments scared me, because I didn’t want to end up empty-handed.

In her work ‘My margins: to be black, a woman and young’, Maria explores her personal experiences of marginalities through her textiles. As a young black Namibian woman the traces of Ondelela used in her textile art reinforces these identities, while deconstructing her textiles she physically attempts to undo, and make sense of, these marginalities, that also inform her identity processes. Her textiles reveal, in a very physical way, her difficult experiences with peripheries.

 

Kirsten Wechslberger

Born in Namibia, 1981

Since 2012 conceptual and performance artist Kirsten Wechslberger has turned her focus to her audiences – people who enjoy art as an integral ingredient of rich and fulfilled lives. With several public installations, land art projects, solo and group exhibitions both in Namibia and internationally, both Kirsten’s works in the exhibition ‘Just’ are conceptual and participatory. This time her audiences can enjoy participating in two games titled ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Demarginalise’. Kirsten designed and created both games, while some art elements are added by Sandra Schmidt. Both works aim to create awareness around value judgments and stereotyping. Kirsten notes:

I feel that my games may create awareness about how people think of, attach value to and judge things which are different to themselves. Things are seldom black and white and there are many gray areas in-between when it comes to dealing with people.

With both works Kirsten’s hopes are not to solve problems related to human rights, but she hopes to create awareness of marginalities, of which she has identified around twenty-two impacting dynamics, so that people are able to make informed decisions on how they think and act towards other humans. Although these two works represent more than twenty-two binaries and contrasts such as black and white, man and woman, young and old, Kirsten emphasises that through the processes involved in playing her games audiences will become aware of the gray areas in-between binaries.

Play groups will have the opportunity to reevaluate their perception about marginalities and their value systems, because players may question different attitudes towards the players and game. The essence of the game lies in the stimulation of debate and discussions between the players about topics such as stereotyping, uninformed value judgments and the role of ego.

 

Fillipus Sheehama

Born in Namibia, 1974

One of Namibia’s leading and multi-talented Indigenous artists, Fillipus Sheehama, masters several visual art genres such as illustration, printmaking, textiles and installation art. Fillipus produces critical art that addresses the social and political issues of Namibia’s most marginalised communities. Some of his themes include poverty, consumption, victimisation and everyday survival. His art seeks to criticise the income inequality in Namibia that is linked to poverty on the one hand and over-consumption on the other.

 

The transformation of discarded materials in his art represents poor people in Namibian communities who often have no option than to establish lives around and from remnants of economically empowered households left at dumping sites. His use of discarded materials, such as plastic, bottle caps, paper and carton symbolize the elements of poverty and destitution in Namibia’s disadvantaged communities. Fillipus says:

 

I see many students coming to art school and after they leave it is as if they lose their form. At school we shape them as young artists, but soon they lose what they have learnt. Their journeys change and they are pushed into other ways of making a living. In my art I use the shape of a house to comment on this lack of foundation and support from our communities and government towards young artists.

 

In his installation titled ‘….’, Fillipus uses the forms of houses to comment on how young marginalised Namibian art students fail to continue their careers as artists due to economic pressures and disadvantage. As a result, they lose their foundation as artists as they are pressured to pursue different ways of sustaining their livelihoods. Also in this work Fillipus uses discarded materials such as wire and plastic to create an installation of various house shapes and forms.

 

Melanie Sarantou

Born in Namibia, 1971

Fashion and textile artist Melanie Sarantou explores themes of marginalisation and stratification in her weaving titled ‘Just community’. Four weaves, constructed from flax twines, ropes and chain strata, symbolise Namibia’s economic and class stratified communities. Roughly connected in webs of meaning, communities tend to organically shape in clusters as people live and improvise their existences from one moment to the next. Communities’ histories, experiences and life narratives shape futures that are part of or indirectly connected to centres, which may also be shifting. For many Namibians, especially those forging their lives in economic disadvantaged margins, shifting centers meant political and perhaps social freedom, but the gnawing shackles of poverty continue to hold them back.

 

The weaves are connected and intersecting with scaffolding which symbolise interstitial spaces – those in-between spaces and moments where identities are in flux, shaping and changing. Due to Melanie’s own experiences with shifting centres, her weaving was a physical encounter of ‘working her way through’ complexities of in-between realities. Living and working in marginalities, Melanie notes:

 

I perceive margins as spaces where I can challenge, rebel against and work on the impossible. In these spaces I resist becoming an unrecognisable substance of the main stream as I am able to continue discovering the creativity in both myself and others. In the margin I am able to resist losing my identities, especially those that are connected to Namibia and Africa.

Answering the question ‘where is my margin’ is perhaps more difficult for her, because she prefers to think and plan beyond, instead of seeing borders and boundaries as hindrances or limitations. This does not mean that she thinks from the position of the centre, but rather to negotiate through and around centres and into peripheries. Melanie believes this form of intermediation is possible for those who are familiar with, and came to terms with the advantages and disadvantages of both centres and peripheries.

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