Accolades for Papa Shikongeni

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The viewer can neither appreciate nor understand creative art work without appreciating the artist responsible for such works. With this praise song for visual creativity the minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture John Mutorwa on Tuesday evening officially opened Papa Shikongeni’s solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Namibia. Mutorwa was standing in for the Head of State President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who was supposed to open Papa’s exhibition. Pohamba is presently in Sweden on an official visit. “Artist Papa Shikongeni is a household name as an artist with both national and international acclaim and credentials. He is recognized by old and young; rich and poor, particularly those who love and appreciate the value of arts and artistic expression,” Mutorwa said. He praised the humble artist, head of JAMAC, as an important contributor towards Namibia’s post-Independence arts education and culture. “Artists are creators. For their daily sustenance and living they dependent on the income derived from their creations. Therefore authentic, beautiful and valuable works should be bought by the public. Why should our public buildings, offices and institutions be decorated with art works from afar whereas we have home grown art works?” Mutorwa asked. “Namibians tend to under value local artists who contribute towards the country’s development. This should not be the case. Artists need to be supported,” he said encouragingly. It is a general tendency for Namibians to show greater interest in foreign works rather than locally produced creative works. “This will be my last solo exhibition in the country,” artist Papa Shikongeni announced to the shocked and disappointed audience of about 100 people at the exhibition. He however implied that he would continue to exhibit his works outside Namibia’s borders, an indication that he would prefer overseas exhibitions rather than local taking into account that his works are more valued internationally than locally. “As an exponent and believer in life and the creative process to fulfil my hopes, dreams and aspirations, I create from within myself to the outside through my works of art,” Papa, who encouraged the Namibian youth to have more self-confidence, said. “The Namibian youth needs to be more respectful and appreciative of life and what it offers. They must stop being lazy, but be more innovative and hardworking. Presently a lack of dialogue between the youth is bedevilling relationships among the youth and creating a situation of fear about the future. You don’t need to fear the future if you are self-confident,” said the artist and father of nine children to great applause by the audience, who later enjoyed eating traditional foods from the North, a well known feature of all Papa’s previous exhibitions.