Shikongeni’s ‘Spirit of Harambe’ on show

Windhoek: The love and admiration for art is growing at a staggering pace. More so, Namibian artists are finally receiving the recognition they deserve.

One Namibia artist who has found a niche in the arts industry is Ndasuunje Shikongeni, also known as “Papa”. Papa Shikongeni is an internationally recognized visual artist, a story-teller, musician and leader in Namibia’s post-independence, arts education and culture.

The world-renowned artist will hold an exhibition under the title “Optimist”, which will run from August 7 to September 6 at the Main Gallery of the National Art Gallery of Namibia.

“I titled the exhibition ‘Optimist’ because living in Namibia as a post independence artist even though I see the hardships of people, I also can see that alongside these hardships are many positive things which bring hope and so I wanted to reflect on the positive things about our society,” says Papa Shikongeni.

“Optimist” is Papa Shikongeni’s first exhibition in the gallery in eight years, and it will feature over 30 artworks he has created in the past two years.

In his works, he uses cardboard block, ink on paper and mixed media collages.

Papa Shikongeni has worked extensively in wood and paper mache sculpture and pioneered novel techniques in printmaking using cardboard, painting, ink on paper and linoleum. Additionally, he also produced the innovative zips technique stretched on frame.

In the past decade, his works, which depicts diverse aspects of Namibian culture and traditions, have been showcased around the globe.

He has hosted 16 solo exhibitions and over 40 group exhibitions since the early 1990 in various countries including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Eritrea, Uganda, Burundi, Zambia, London, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia and Norway.

Papa Shikongeni has lectured at John Muafangejo Art Centre, Rundu College of Education (University of Namibia (UNAM) – Rundu Campus), Ongwediva College of Education (now Hifikepunye Pohamba UNAM Campus). He has also been a visual art facilitator for the National Art Extension Programme with the College of the Arts.

From 2002 to 2009, Papa Shikongeni was Centre Director of the John Muafangejo Art Centre, Namibia’s training ground for young artists in various disciplines. Papa Shikongeni is still a lecturer at the College of the Arts.

(edited)WINDHOEK: Internationally and locally recognised artist Ndasuunye Shikongeni’s latest offering, known as Papa’s Spirit of Harambe is currently on exhibition at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre (FNNC) here.

The 28-piece artwork exhibition opened up to the public on Friday preceding an acoustic concert by Shikongeni and his band.

Set in the ever changing culture and traditions of indigenous groups around Namibia, Shikongeni’s work seeks to reinforce unified diversity that knows no race or stereotype.

His works resonate ritual order and spirituality and speaks layers of traditional, tribal, urban and contemporary volumes.

The exhibition promises an audience imagination on a painting and provokes individualistic interpretation.

Shikongeni said through this exhibition, he wants everyone to ask themselves why they are on this earth and should therefore ask themselves, ‘Why am I on this earth?’

Shikongeni also noted that his work was created in a generation where alcohol and ‘beautify’ or materialistic needs have taken over.

One of the artworks titled “Namibian dance” was an audience’ favourite during the opening of the exhibition on Friday evening last week.

The painting portrays the life of motion during a traditional dance but does not single out a culture or ethnic group to which it dances for.

The tradition skirt worn by the subject tells folklores but allows the audience to tell the tales themselves.

Shikongeni has managed to capture the nation as one, motion, sound and transformation in the artwork.

Professor Peter Katjavivi who officiated the opening of the exhibition, described Shikongeni as a multitalented artist, committed to Namibian arts and culture through his prints, mixed media and music.

His work has been known to include issues of everyday life, the post-colonial history of Namibia and aspects leading to the question of poverty and traditional rituals.

His works also deal with the world of spirituality and social responsibility.

Katjavivi described him has a commentator and an observer who watches what goes by and what he comes across from time to time and tries to reflect on that in some form.