The year 2017 marks started off very well for the College of the Arts (COTA) graduates who will be showcasing their artworks as professional visual artists to the public – during the New Beginnings 2017 exhibition set to take place at the National Art Gallery of Namibia (NAGN) on January 26.
Every year, COTA holds an exhibition of work by graduates of the Visual Art Department. New Beginnings will be showing its 8th iteration to celebrate yet another year of success in teaching, learning, thinking and making of arts.
After 14 years of tuition, the COTA Visual Art Department has become an established institution in the field, producing some of Namibia’s most exciting and innovative artists.
Their accredited three-year Visual Art Diploma course teaches a variety of art and craft skills and allows students to major in a technique of their choice in the final year.
With each passing year, the New Beginnings exhibition takes on a different identity, influenced by the concerns of the present day and shifting with the addition of new minds and ideas added to the pool of graduate artists.
According to the Head of Department of Visual Art at COTA, Nicky Marais, students at the college come from diverse backgrounds, often leaving their homes and families to study art in the capital city, Windhoek.
These personal histories are often present in the work that they create, as is evident in the work of Laimi Mbangula whose textiles are patterned using motifs derived from traditional utensils and tools.
Similarly, the works of Elisia Nghidishange and Inovandu Katuuo draw heavily on their culture and traditions. In the case of Nghidishange, one will see a questioning of the role and place of these traditions in contemporary Namibia.
This contemporaneity and deep investment in the present moment is clearly evident in the works of Sem Amuthitu, Jeremiah Haihambo, Sidney Lamberth, Viola Rantsch and Vaughn Riekert, all graduates from the college whose works will be showcased during the exhibition.
Their works, which stem from concerns with social issues prevalent in Namibia today, allow this exhibition to touch on the topics of alcohol abuse, malaria, land ownership and gender-based violence.
Amuthitu’s series, ‘A Sugar-coated Message’, asks the audience to question their own behaviour in relation to alcohol. Amuthitu uses a Jackson Pollock inspired technique to paint people suffering from the effects of drinking abuse.
With this body of work Amuthitu requests, without judgment, that people consider a new beginning for themselves. Margareth Twamoneni and Gerson Ndongo, on the other hand, base their work on their personal narratives, drawing from self-examination and exploration.
In her work, Twamoneni delves into an understanding of her physical being, stemming from an emotional connection to the notion of mortality. Looking to Ndongo’s works, one can see that he creates heavily layered pieces inspired by magazines, television and street culture. His work is a celebration of his connection to the unstoppable energy of youth, rejoicing in his experience of the current urban moment.
Johannes Heroin’s evocative sculptures of children at play show fragments of a moment, something that is only half remembered.
These nostalgic representations stand in this exhibition as a reminder that the remnants of past ‘New Beginnings’ exhibitions filter into the present and will continue on into the future.