Celebrate Namibia series
“Namibia is awash with diverse culture, heritage and unique landscapes – an ideal place to gather inspiration for art, music, films, fashion and more. This south-western African country oozes a unique cultural energy, a rhythm and a spice for life that it has become renowned for.
Art has always been a part of Namibia, as
is seen in the San paintings and engravings found in the Brandberg, Twyfelfontein and Erongo areas. This ancient rock art dates back thousands of years. UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) notes that “between 2013 and 2015, Namibia revised its 2001 National Policy on Arts and Culture formulating the Namibia Arts, Culture and Heritage Policy, which directs efforts in the preservation and promotion of its diverse cultural expressions.” In addition the National Heritage Council of Namibia was established under the National Heritage Act, No 27 of 2004, with the mission to “identify, protect and manage the natural and cultural heritage of Namibia.” This has created a firm foundation on which the arts can flourish.
Namibia has produced world-famous artists. Probably the most acclaimed being John Ndevasia Muafangejo (Artwork pictured above. 1943-1987), who took the world by storm with his linocuts, woodcuts, etchings, tapestries, altarpieces and sculptures. He was a trailblazing printmaker whose work has been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1994, the John Muafangejo Art Centre was established in Windhoek to honour this prolific Namibian artist and his astounding, autobiographical work.
Music is fast gaining momentum in Namibia as an industry. Since Independence it has grown an audience across the African continent. Much of Namibian music is deeply rooted in the history of the country. Namibian musicologist, the late Dr. Minette Mans, noted that much of our musical traditions have over time transformed into other new styles through processes of adaptation and appropriation. According to Shishani Vranckx, a singer-songwriter and activist: “Today we find various musical styles in Namibia, both modern (international) and traditional (indigenous).”
o provide space to celebrate the diverse heritage of Namibian music, the Museum of Namibian Music recently opened its doors. It is located in the heart of Omuthiya in the Oshikoto Region in the far north. The Namibian Education, Arts and Culture Ministry’s director of heritage and cultural programmes, Esther Moombolah-Goagoses, said at the occasion that
“ancestral music knowledge and skill, like the memory of a style of dance passed down through generations, has been recognised by UNESCO as a globally important form of intangible cultural heritage.”
Namibia’s fashion industry is another business sector that is fast making its mark, despite its youthful age. The Fashion Council of Namibia was created only in 2013, with the aim
of coordinating and formalising a budding new industry. The capital city, Windhoek, hosted its first-ever Fashion Week in 2016, which since has become an annual display of local and international design talent. The growth of Windhoek Fashion Week has been phenomenal. Today it attracts creatives from all over Africa. According to Board Member of the Fashion Council of Namibia, Disney Andreas: “Home to a diverse and unique set of individuals pioneering the fashion scene, the Namibian fashion industry has experienced significant growth since the establishment of platforms such as MTC Windhoek Fashion Week and Katutura Fashion Week. The industry is building a footprint through creating opportunities in local, African and global communities and markets.”
Namibian fashion designers, too, are fast making their mark on both local and international catwalks. Leah Misika, the Founder and managing director of La Mode Fashions, designs for retailers in Namibia and the United States. Ennio Hamutenya is the Namibian creative behind the international Hamutenya brand which creates luxury headwear. His signature natural burn on the back left corner of each hat is a homage to his deep roots in Namibia. The burn mark refers to the ancient Oshiwambo tradition Ekala po Lupale of keeping the village fire lit in honour of the Alpha of the village or tribe. Hamutenya hats are worn all over the globe, adorning the heads of Hollywood celebrities and others.