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Ebony Exhibition

by Jemima Beukes


Could it be that the term ‘contemporary’ is overrated, perhaps miserably abused or just simply misunderstood?
Well, the Ebony Exhibition currently running at the Franco Namibian Cultural Centre, which has managed to raise but a few eyelids, has made it clear that art is still not fully comprehended by the layman.
Only a handful of curious onlookers were present to view the handpicked items, which included a few Islamic prayer mats, a patchwork made out of Indian silk resembling the Taj Mahal.
Though none of these items can brag with a few airy-fairy details, one or two have managed to get a few approving nods.
One such artwork is the mixed media contraption of Namibian arts veteran, Joseph Madisia that could easily pass for a makeshift oracle.
Contraption, I say, because it hardly makes any sense, unless one considers the effect the use of natural materials would have on a global warming activist.
There are dangling bones strung on strips of leather and a big round crystal in the centre of the piece, bringing to the fore memories of the tongue affair in the Neu Zealand Haka dance.
Then there is the actual ebony miniature sculpture, which confuses and fascinates me.
The rather stretched sculpture  looks typically like pieces used in voodoo tales. Born from a ‘sick’ tree, this piece of black wood sculpture shares the fate of the blacks whose beauty comes to fore when they are in pain.
This collection of contemporary art items has been gathered by the director FNCC, Luc Fabre during his missions around the African continent.
In an effort to encourage Namibian artists to think outside the box, Fabre collected artworks from his those missions.
“Arts is global. I want to initiate change with this collection. Namibian artists cross the borders of their country all the time. I want to feed their creativity to wake up the African contemporary art,” said Fabre.
As an art collector, Fabre has purchased a lot of Namibian art work since he came to Namibia.