Text Marita van Rooyen
“Windhoek’s art galleries and cultural institutions have joined forces in an unprecedented initiative to pull off a festival that will direct the public’s attention to one theme – photography – for the duration of a full month.”F
Photography has been linked to the principle of exchanging information and experience, to the interplay of learning and teaching, and to the encouragement of creativity. With the presentation of Namibia’s first Month of Photography(MoP) the ball was set in motion to put this desert country and its happy snappers on the international photographic map.
The theme is quite simple – People and Territories – but in the end it was the interpretation of the subject matter that offered sixteen chosen photographers the opportunity to exhibit their work. Gaelle Lapostolle, former cultural officer at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre (FNCC) and initiator of the event, explains the chosen theme as ‘a way of getting people to imagine themselves, through art, in a specific place at a specific time’.
Four professional and six semi-professional photographers emerged as finalists, and six images by student photographers were chosen for inclusion in the project. The selected professionals are John Liebenberg, Lukas Amakali, Niina Turtola and Chris Johnston, while Christof van Niekerk, Caroline de Meersseman, Marita van Rooyen, Phillip Lühl, Liezl Hoving and Hugo Valerio were chosen for the semi-professional category. During the MoP each of these ten photographers presents their interpretation of the Namibian identity in a certain environment in solo exhibitions throughout galleries in Windhoek.
A night at the galleries
On 9 September, Namibia’s first MoP kicks off with the official opening in the courtyard of the Alte Feste Museum, where the winners and prizes will be announced. Afterwards two city buses will take gallery hoppers to the eight of the nine galleries spread throughout the city.
“The opening night sets the mood for the whole month. You have to be on one of the buses, otherwise you’re going to miss all the fun!” says Almute Möller, an organiser from the Goethe Centre. The best part of the bus ride will probably be provided by the four drama students appointed as gallery guides, or GGs as Almute calls them. These entertainers/tour guides keep bus riders informed and amused for the duration of the tour, spiced by a few tricks up their sleeves.
As an interactive gateway and to involve the regular Joe in the activities, the MoP’s launch competition, Snapshot Photographer, is set to activate the fingers on the buttons. “It’s as easy as snapping a shot of someone else snapping a shot and making it as creative and original as your brain allows,” laughs Irmgard Schreiber, the organiser from the FNCC’s side.
But photographic competitions are not the end of it.
All about photography
The MoP events start a few days before the grand opening and last until 7 October. Activities include film screenings, lectures and panel discussions, a Song Night by Lize Ehlers, a Spoken Word poetry evening and a Free Your Mind comedy event, all focused on the art of photography. Furthermore, half a dozen workshops on photography or related topics will be presented, some of them public, others intended for the participating photographers only. Visiting experts from France and Germany will share their know-how with local artists and stakeholders. Dates have been set for the public to meet one-on-one with the exhibiting photographers and to pick their brains.
The event is hard to miss, not only because it is so huge and historical, but also because is being promoted through radio and television interviews, partner organisations, newsletters and posters, and made highly visible on large LCD screens in the Wernhil Shopping Centre. The idea behind publicising the event was to share the exhibitions at another level, by taking them out of the galleries and into the awareness of the broader public.
Interested photo fans will have the opportunity to get to know some internationally renowned photographers through panel discussions and presentations. John Liebenberg, photojournalist known for documenting the Namibian liberation struggle; Kristin Capp, a visiting American photography lecturer at the University of Namibia; and John Fleetwood, director of the Market Photo Workshop, the photography school of the renowned Market Theatre in Johannesburg, will all share their picture know-how.
Local big shots such as Christine Skowski will further entice photo-lovers with a presentation and an art talk, while Siggi Straube, Christian Golz, Susan Nel, Djunior Svane and Scott Hurd will conduct photographic workshops throughout the month.
A short history
In 2004, inspired by Paris’s mois de la photo, which has been in existence since 1980, Berlin and Vienna developed the idea of a European collaborative project — the European Month of Photography. This network is aimed at fostering the international photographic scene and boosting collaboration and artistic exchange between the countries. Since 2006, Bratislava, Luxemburg, Rome, and Moscow have also participated in this network of cities. The initiative has since spread to numerous cities around the world, in an effort to raise awareness for the art of photography. The project is aimed at featuring photography both as an art form, and as a creative, economically viable industry.
The stakeholders of the Month of Photography in Namibia are: the Ministry of Youth National Service Sport and Culture, National Art Gallery of Namibia, Katutura Community Art Centre, University of Namibia Gallery, College of the Arts (KCAC) – John Muafangejo Art Gallery, Goethe Centre, Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre, Spanish Cooperation, British Council, Studio 77, Bank Windhoek Omba Gallery, Bank Windhoek Arts Festival, Photographic Society of Namibia, Arts Association Heritage Trust, and the City of Windhoek.
Works will be exhibited at the following galleries in Windhoek:
As an initiative to take the MoP to other parts of the country, African photojournalist Karin Retief exhibits at the Alliance Française de la Côte in Swakopmund, while Scott Hurd takes his workshop participants to the Lake Oanob Resort outside Rehoboth for a nature-inspired weekend.
Visit the MoP’s Facebook page (Mop Namibia) for further information and for the complete calendar of events.
This article appeared in the Sept’11 edition of FLAMINGO Magazine.