Art exhibitions are a journey into the mind of an artist, a series of how they see and interpret the world. As far as escapes go, exhibitions are my favorite form, allowing you to shut down your perspective for a while and engage in a different perspective. Such is Namibian Visual Artist, Hage Mukwendje’s, Ounona exhibition. Ounona is Oshivambo for children, in this series Mukwendje gives a peek into how he sees childhood and it is beautiful.
With everything that 2020 has been, it’s necessary to mention that the exhibition was well placed in terms of time. Ounona allows you to escape into the bliss of childhood. Who doesn’t long for the days when no matter how hard life was there was always a reason to smile?
As I walked towards the exhibition, I saw three pieces – let’s call them introductory/welcoming pieces, leading to the main gallery where most of the artwork was. The third piece was at the entrance of the main gallery. It stood as a precursor, heralding emotions yet to be experienced. The piece portrays a young girl sitting cross-legged, channeling her inner peace. While this was my favorite for many other reasons, I particularly loved how it stood at the entrance as if to say, ‘welcome to a place that transports you into a better state of mind.’
Visually, the main gallery was filled with childlike optimism, allowing you to think, ‘hey, it’s going to be alright after all.’ Mukwendje uses this series to teleport you into a time when nothing seemed impossible.
The frame with the young girl sitting cross-legged channeling peace was my favorite. In the last few weeks, Namibia has witnessed a series of protests against the increasing SGBV and femicide cases. The freehand line work outside the subject reflects everything happening around the young girl and yet she remains calm or at least tries to find her calm. The peace portrayed by the girl is the peace women crave. The red color dripping down from her heart however reflects that she could be bleeding and yet determined to find herself and her peace.
The second piece, as the name (Delight) suggests, truly is a delight. It captures the playfulness that children allow themselves to indulge in. The young boy uses the power of the gaze and looks into the viewers eyes as if to ask, ‘why are you so serious?’ The subject boldly dares the audience to dig deep into a time when they could be so carefree. The use of yellow evokes a lighter mood in the audience.
The last piece I will look at is called Ounona, one can only assume the exhibition was named after this piece as it is without a doubt the star of the show. It depicts four boys laughing and though you can’t hear the laughter everything about it shows that it is heartfelt. Mukwendje does a marvelous job in vividly bringing the laughter to life. Upon seeing it one can’t help but to smile. The number of boys is also worth noting. Four boys show community, ubuntu which is reflective of Mukwendje’s beliefs.
Mukwendje gets his inspiration from the time he spends with children helping at shelters. It’s precious that he gets to see the world through the eyes of children and even more precious that he allows us to see them as he does.
Artist: Hage Mukwendje
Curator: Mutindi Jacobs