The Year that was


With New Year’s resolutions already fraying at the edges, bank balances in a decidedly third world state and retail regret seeping in like December damp, it is around this time of the year that we look for entertainment that is cheap, challenging and may even offer a glass of room temperature wine for the trouble.
However, as most galleries are still adorned with “gone fishing” signs extolling the emptiness of their spaces amidst the slow return from sunny and funny places, visitors and reviewers will have to turn their attention from the year that will be to the year that was.
The Villager began its artistic analysis in June last year and though there was a lot of apprehension regarding how to populate an arts column every week, Windhoek’s robust arts scene proved that the problem was not one of scarcity but one of selection.
With events celebrating myriad artists’ work in the spheres of painting, textiles, sculpture, mixed media and more, the capital certainly saw a renaissance of the highest and most innovative order in its artistic community.  
Though concerned with a decidedly fringe element of visual art, The Month of Photography was without a doubt the highlight of last year’s artistic calendar.
Far reaching in scope and exposure, the MoP managed to introduce hundreds of locals to the cities nine galleries through their innovative exhibition titled “A Night at the Galleries”.
With locals viewing photography from Katutura to Windhoek Central, on free buses supplied by the initiative, the MoP succeeded in providing record viewership to both amateur and professional local photographers while creating awareness of the cities myriad artistic platforms.
Indeed, its month of workshops, lectures, events and exhibitions were truly a celebration and education in the art of photography. Not only did it ignite the streets of Windhoek for a night but it also managed to create a buzz around the craft, which is sure to see an enthusiastic increase in entrants and expectation at this year’s offering.
Last year, praise for painting went to crowd favourites Imke Rust, Papa Shikongeni and Kabelo Modise who all breathed new life into their personal presentations with marked emphasis on technique with the added boon of narratives, which seemed to lift and liberate their pieces. In July, Modise’s “Arty Tectural Space” was of particular note and featured art that moved entirely away from the tether of individuals and instead, presented the character of space in innovative line drawings in which emptiness assumed a distinct character and colour.
Though a far cry from the stock characters from the village and the default African aesthetic prevalent in local paint and lino cuts, Modise’s work was endlessly exciting as one can believe that local artists are in the midst of individual identity creation - in as much as they are no longer imitating the success of stalwarts such as Shikongeni but are instead risking ridicule in a quest for their own artistic character.
Proving that housewives are not as desperate as they seem were the Potters Association of Namibia and the Dinsdag Daisies who created pottery with a purpose and calendars for Cancer respectively. Boasting an array of art created by an association of artistic women, the Dinsdag Daisies dispelled art for art’s sake and instead created pro bono works of art, which were then auctioned as originals and further used to raise money for the Cancer Association of Namibia by being printed and bound into re-usable birthday calendars.
Art also took on a more tangible purpose in “The Visual World of the San”; an exhibition by the Omba Arts Trust and Gallery, which showcased the childlike art of the disposed Bushmen who have been forced to make their living in modern society as their hunter-gatherer way of life gives way to a world of possession.
In October, art from abroad graced the calendar with a stunning black and white photographic presentation from Fulbright scholar, Kristin Capp and in “Namibiana,” her project-in-the-making, Namibians can look forward to seeing our country’s beauty expressed through the sensitivity and subtlety of Capp’s curious camera.
Though featuring some intense and innovative visual art pieces, there is still a tendency to recycle in the Namibian art community. Whether this re-use is of ideas, techniques or whole exhibitions, given the highly original presentations issued by Chris Johnston  in “Three Degrees off Plumb”, Kabelo Modise in “Arty Tectural Space”, Liezl Hoving in “Project Feet”, Miona Janeke in “Horses of the Golden West” and Sophia Opperman and Marthie Hanekom in “Soul Journey”, it seems going green may be en vogue in the real world but may not cut it in the arts’ one.
Indeed, if last year is anything to go by, arts enthusiasts will be looking at an increase in exhibitions by a new crop of inspired or lapsed artists and whispers in the arts world. No doubt galvanised by the MoP indicate that exhibitors are looking into more innovative ways in which to showcase their art work.
Should you wish to be a part of the 2012 scene, your brush will most certainly need to be guided by practice and directed by heart to fill a canvas full of nothing less than your singing soul.