By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Documentation of traditional artwork in Namibia is nowadays hard to come by. In the past much of the ethnic artworks were undervalued compared to modern and contemporary artefacts. However, ever since Independence there has been a growing appreciation of contemporary craft production, valued for its cultural, aesthetic and economic value. It is against this background that a book entitled A Link to the Past – a Bridge to the Future, was launched in Ondangwa this week. Author of the book and director of the John Muafangejo Art Centre Ndasuunje Shikongeni said the latest publication strives to ensure the survival of handcrafted artefacts of pottery and basketry, which is commonly used as a source of livelihood by most communities especially in the North. The 13-page booklet focuses on the origin of such artwork mainly in the north-central areas, preparation of pottery and clay as well as the entire process involved in making clay pots and different baskets. In the foreword of the publication, Prime Minister Nahas Angula commended the initiative by JMAC in reviving traditional knowledge and skills, which can be passed on from one generation to another “Pottery and basketry are mainly pre-occupations of women. The initiative of reviving these skills will therefore empower village women,” stated Angula, adding that such artefacts are of great economic value. Comments were also made about traditional smiths, potters and basket makers who had disappeared into the past whereby communities lost their traditional knowledge and skills in something that is still today considered as a valuable community asset. Officially launching the book, Governor of the Oshana Region Clemens Kashuupulwa said the latest publication comes at the right time when the country is in the process of undergoing a cultural transformation over the past 16 years of independence. He added that if such traditional works are not documented the younger generation might never know about their own culture and traditions. The governor explained further that many communities’ “culture and traditions were devalued by Eurocentric cultures under the disguise of Western civilization. We must be proud of our own culture and traditional heritage and stand firm in order to seek improvement by using new appropriate technologies to revive our culture and traditional arts.” That is why organisations such as the Ohandje Artists Cooperative, which was established two years ago, are seen as making a difference in the lives of the many potters and basket weavers from the Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions. The co-operative promotes traditional Namibian art and markets its members’ art and craft nationally and internationally with assistance from the Africa Groups of Sweden. It has also initiated a long-term environmental programme of replanting Makalani palm trees in the north from which rural women make marula oil for a living. The book will be available at a cost of N$20 at JMAC at the Katutura Arts and Crafts Centre as well as in bookshops and craft centres throughout the country.
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