Reflections on the role of educating public about art

The John Muafangejo Art Centre artists opened up an enthralling exhibition in the spacious FNCC gallery reflecting on the role of educating the public about art. Most of the masterpieces are novel, studded with the creative genius of the artists, dismantling the barriers of art and reality and taking on a very daringly post-modernist snarl. By no doubt, post modernism has made its mark on contemporary African art as it warrants a refreshing kind of liberal  creativity that confounds conventional definitions of what art should be.

In his unlimited presentment of the urbanite environs, John Kalunda best dons this coat, employing material based art to fuse the dust of the earth with the slick metallic surface of images of the material. He further bridges the gap between the rich and the poor, drawing clear contrasts with the ubiquitous images of the shake and splattering the canvass with deep blue colours of water, a scant commodified need of man. He is very cautious of the typical Namibian environs and clime, very much so if one is to glimpse on his piece titled Urban Modern House, a lonely fragment of progress dumped in the desert setting where some distant windmill toasting to the health of the open skies lies.

His creativity is both forceful as is it is surprising, playing on the common place object that signifies the need and want of man and the space in between. Elizabeth Shinana’s piece titled Perseverance is quite flatteringly romantic, smooth and dipped in the raw nerves of colour. It resonates with freedom that comes with the life of the feathery fraternity that rules the skies as it embraces in the serenity of creation. “We shouldn’t value arts education on the basis that it has social or economic benefits, but because it expands the mind and soul,” says one British writer.

In defending arts education EB Feldman in  the 1980s, argued, “It should not be about creating artists but about something broader,” thus suggesting that arts education can imbue in young people a sense of the satisfaction that comes from working to create something. That sense comes with the ability to use and understand language effectively, and a profound sense of ‘the values that permit civilised life to go on’. Shinana curates this civilization imbued at the heart of Namibian culture and tradition in her piece titled, “My Culture,” wherein lies the presence of two mothers, bathing in the light of colourful cultural regalia.

In his homage to the power of art, Harvey Fierstein is not far from the truth when he says, “Art has the power to transform, to illuminate, to educate, inspire and motivate.” Shinana challenges us to relook at that which is meta-peculiar to us, untouched by the vagaries of time and direct external influences, to embrace such and eternilise. Uaurika Tjiterere’s renditions of the rustic life from which we spring, back in the country, is an obsession with which the exhibition identifies him.

Cattle yoked to a cart within which people sit are mixed with the wild and now endangered rhino while the elephant seems to concede equal citizenship with “the man in the suit.” The innocence of such a juxtaposition seem to be heavy with political statements scribbled on the invisible placards and protest banners against the illicit trade in horns.

Tjiterere’s observations through his art are that art per se is a stage where social realities are reshaped to be given an accentuated, almost spiritual meaning that impacts the soul and thus requires a soulful reaction. 

According to the Open Society Foundation, education of the public about art can only thrive in an open society, “one where freedom of expression and democracy are paramount, and where no one holds a monopoly on the truth.”