Date: August 13, 2018

The last day of the "Legacies of a Colonial Town" exhibition at NAGN was marked with a very special public gathering around the living conditions in informal settlements. As this meeting was co-organised with Labour Resource and Research Institute LaRRI, it was the continuation of a public meeting held late November 2012, where citizens shared their experiences and challenges faced in the everyday life of the informal settlements.

To take the discussion further, participants were organised geographically to form smaller discussion groups and identify major challenges, suggest strategies to overcome those and resources – material and immaterial – needed to be able to do it. Joined by participants from other areas of Windhoek, this resulted in a colourful mix of discussions, sometimes heated, to strategise what needs to be done, and who is going to do it.

What precipitated is the way in which lack of housing and basic services prevents inhabitants to empower themselves, create their own economies and become less dependent on low-paid jobs elsewhere in the city. Systemic injustices were raised, where people are deemed legal enough to vote, yet illegal in terms of inhabiting the city. Financial mechanisms such as the market-based approach to land, further marginalising the poor, were singled out as counter-productive to achieving inclusive cities. While some political demands were made, other participants reaffirmed their constitutional rights and stressed the need to mobilise neighbourhood groups and church communities to structure their participation in the making of the city more coherently.

With LaRRI starting a year-long research project on the living conditions in informal settlements, hopes are high that this gathering was the start of a longer-term process of community-based research and action towards social justice. Befittingly, the caterer from Katutura was not able to get to NAGN, and so participants hopped on the bus to be taken for the promised lunch at Soweto Market.

Soweto Market is hopefully also the next venue for the exhibition as part of the LAND MATTERS IN ART project.

*Originally published on 26 February 2013


Date: August 13, 2018

“How do we overcome the historical separations and inequalities of our towns and cities?” was the overarching question in the second public debate, organized at the NAGN on saturday 16th of February. Several practitioners from the urban filed shared their analysis regarding (urban) inequality and necessary actions to overcome it. 

John Nakuta from UNAM reminded government on its responsibility to ensure every citizen his or her right to adequate housing and sanitation, the two major crises he singled out in contemporary Namibia. Jacques Korrubel, urban planner by profession and lecturer at Polytechnic of Namibia, propagated compact cities, i.e. densification within the current urban boundaries, more integrated communities through mixed-use and participatory planning, and democratic decentralized public spending. Tom Fox, sociologist at UNAM, highlighted the issue of isolated spaces, separated by cultural, ethnic and increasingly class divisions, as main obstacle to create more inclusive cities and suggested that hope lies in the emergence of social movements "outside" of official politics, to put forward demands and mobilise around issues of inequality. Architect Leon Barnard posed that the perpetuation of the suburban model, leading to uncontrolled urban sprawl, is the major obstacle to creating healthy communities, and suggested that the answer might lie in the idea of compact, pedestrian-based cities of the past, where the abundance of well-scaled and connected public spaces compensates for restricted private space. The city, according to him, needs a conductor of the orchestra, in the person of the urban designer, who coordinates all the different urban disciplines into a unified whole. Urbanist Guillermo Delgado argued that the city as we know it is the necessary form that a capitalist economy creates, and that more needs to be changed than just spatial design. A system that relies on infinite growth, in the city based on the growth of the value of land, must necessarily create inequalities, as it puts exchange value above social necessity. Anna Müller from Namibia Housing Action Group urged that solution, especially referring to the issue of affordable housing, needs to be sought outside "the market" as the last 17 years of grass-roots engagement have shown that the poor are structurally excluded, by denying them the right to self-develop. In the further discussion the question how an urban land-reform, and a re-distributive model of urban development would look like. Far from reaching conclusions and finding solutions, the debate showed the immensity of the work lying ahead.

*Originally published on 20 February 2013


Date: August 13, 2018

The first public debate in connection with the Legacies of a Colonial Town exhibition took place at the Main Gallery of NAGN on saturday 9th February. The overarching question was of the relevance of art in the public domain today, and about 30 people came to participate in the discussion. 

5 speakers, from different disciplinary backgrounds started off the debate with short statements on the topic, before other participants joined in with questions and their own views regarding the topic. Andreas Hofmeyr, and architect, shared his views on "the festival" in the creation of public space, which highlighted the aspect of public participation in the creation of difference. Prof Andre du Pisani expanded on the political dimension of art, and more particularly public buildings, as a representation of ideology. Meanings that such buildings seek to portray are not always congruent with the meaning that the public interprets into them. Well-known artist Papa Shikongeni raised the lack of a shared Namibian identity as one reason for the lack of both art appreciation as well as art creation, and the constraints of the dominant economical system as inhibiting the production of cultural value. He called for the creation of a policy in this regard, which integrates artist into the mechanisms of architectural and urban planning. Alfeus Mvula, a local artist, stressed the fact that in order to become real public art, it has to be in non-instituionalized spaces which invite the the passerby to get engaged. To raise the level of public involvement he proposed the development of themes, which artists are invited to elaborate on. M'Kariko Amagulu from the Directorat of Arts at the Ministry of Culture explained the existing draft policies on art and public buildings, and the institutional arrangements that are supposed to facilitate the implementation.

There is much to be done, and this debate only marks a beginning for further discussion and action to make art accessible and relevant for a wider public.

*Originally published on 15 February 2013


Date: August 13, 2018

DASP invites you to the opening of the exhibition "Legacies of a Colonial Town" at the National Art Gallery of Namibia. 

The opening will be on Wednesday 23 January at 18:00 at the NAGN. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, a series of public events will be organised around the topics of art & public space, architecture and urbanisation. Usually these events will take place on saturday mornings (as NAGN recently extended its opening times to welcome people on saturdays) and will be announced in due course. The exhibition will be open until 23 February.

The exhibition was developed under the title "Namibia - Definitions of Space" for the International Architecture and Design Showcase in London in July 2012, where it was awarded the "Silver Pigeon Award" for the best National contribution to the showcase among 35 other countries.

*Originally published on 16 January 2013


Date: August 13, 2018

25th October 2012 marked the big day for the Department. The first generation of Polytechnic Architecture students presented their third year Mini-Thesis design project with the entire Departmental staff as well as the invited guest critiques Ms Gloria Kamau and Mr Paul Munting acting as members of the jury.

After three years of study, this pioneer group is set to graduate with a Bachelor of Architecture degree, which will enable them to register as Candidate Architectural Technologist with NCAQS - pending the new Architects Act.

The projects were as ambitious as the Department itself, ranging from the scale of a cricket stadium in Olympia to a medical centre in Khomasdal. In between were designs for an international convention centre near Wernhil, a building materials research centre in Windhoek North, a secondary school in Cimbebasia, a scheme for slum upgrading and communal facilities in Katutura, an old age home in Rehoboth and a project to convert a San resettlement camp near Gobabis into a village, with culturally adequate housing and public facilities for the gradual socio-economic empowerment of the community.

For the students this moment marked a milestone on a long and sometimes bumpy journey, the last stretch of which they had spent working in architectural offices in Windhoek for their Work Integrated Learning.

We are looking forward to welcome some of the successful graduates back to continue their studies for the Bachelor of Architecture Honours in 2013, a year that will hopefully also see the accreditation process of the program to be initiated.

*Originally published on 1 November 2012

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