Windhoek’s public artworks too emotional


The beauty of city finds accentuation from the exquisite accuracy and symmetry of its architectural design but so does the infinite addition of aesthetics provided for, silently, deliberately and unnoticed, by the artist.

Driving on a random day along Robert Mugabe Avenue, the National Art Gallery superimposes itself above the stream of traffic touching the sparse blue of the skies.

We stop here for our routine check of the galleries to get a glimpse of what’s new and alluring.

Waving past the stoic guard who tacitly agrees to our not signing in on his log sheet, we are immediately embraced by the gallery lady who tells us, “everything has been unhooked in preparation for another upcoming UNAM exhibition.”

As we digest this latest development, we contemplate the next move. 

Right at the entrance of this grand building, the creative genius of art lies silently screaming to the materialistic society filing past in slick, fast-moving cars and occasional tourists roaming through prissy sweet Windhoek’s German architectural hallmarks.

Here, two artists have, out of the malleable potential of rusty wire and the brittle impudence of steel, woven the image of a man balanced on a ball symbolic of Earth’s elliptical shape.

Nearby, a wheelbarrow bundles up wood dripped in all sorts of primary colours while just down by the aisle, the perfection of sculpture makes its presence felt.

A careful look at the works bared by the gallery to the public makes it impossible to overlook the over-emphasis that has been put on pure human emotion.

In each of the unique pieces lie the marks of something yearning to express itself out of the bottomless pits of man’s heart of hearts.

The works at one go, are a seismic explosion of feelings that derive from the negative yet presented in such a manner that provides a therapeutic healing process of soul and mind.

Misery is brutishly projected upon a grief-struck image bowing its back to the whip-crakes of some unseen burden of mental oppression.

Here, loneliness and shame are best brought into juxtaposition in soapstone where the sculpture plays on the nude to demystify the element of vulnerability and shame.

As we begin to set our camera to capture this stream of consciousness drowned in the blurring honks of passing cars we cannot help but wonder, “How much of this art makes it to the senses of those who daily pass past its presence?”

Could it be that the emotions are too hostile and disturbing? Could it be that Windhoek’s citizenry does not easily take to being reminded of its trapped mixed emotions of loss, fear, anxiety, paranoia, and flirting visions of nihilism? 

An occasional passer-by stops to stoop on some philosophic text writ on white paper, and probes quizzically at the art before him and shuffles away.

The power of art in the production of human emotion often seems to be too much for the average viewer walking the aisles of the city, so much so because there seem to be an over-emphasis and concentration that makes the art-pieces way too cumbersome.

Humanity seeks pleasure more often than the opposite, and the trapped agonies of their existential life circumstances are quick reminders of the brutal side of that existence.

Windhoek’s central business district is cosmopolitan and way too materialistic, a typical materialism that associates with the pursuit of pleasure and inner peace.

As such, we may not be way far off the mark to critique that the public art at the NAGN and neighbouring Franco Namibia Cultural Centre (FNCC) mass-produce the dark matter and gloom of our very emotions.

It is for this reason that Plato banned art and poets from his “ideal state.” 

The historical progress of humanity has been determined by the rule of logic, reasoning more than a play of emotions.

“Not pleasure and pain, but law and reason shall rule in our state,” shouted Plato.

This is not to suggest that art ought to be interdicted for what it stands for or seems to exhibit, yet too much familiarity with one aspect of life oft breed contempt.

One last word, can our public exhibitors please lighten up a bit!