Sept 29, 2021

The first part of the Namibia-Germany Fellowship with three Namibian artists comes to a close

Nesindano »Ques« Namises during her performance »Aural Interventions«. Photo: Frank Kleinbach

The Summer Festival on September 24 and 25, 2021 marked the end of the first part of Akademie Schloss Solitude’s new fellowship program, which promotes an artistic exchange between Namibia and Germany. The second part will kick-start with fellowship residencies of German artists in Namibia.

Akademie Schloss Solitude is establishing a new residency program dedicated to long-term artistic and cultural exchange between Namibia and Germany. The program is organized within the framework of the Namibia Initiative funded by the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts Baden-Wuerttemberg, and aims to initiate a collaborative approach to the history of colonial relations between Namibia and Germany and to develop new artistic narratives on this topic.
Akademie Schloss Solitude has a special role to play here as a platform to initiate a new form of exchange between the remarkably diverse artistic positions from both countries,, and as a learning institution to accommodate and process the knowledge accumulated during the course of these experiences. The aim of the new fellowship program is to showcase current artistic positions from Namibia and Germany in both countries and to establish a new kind of joint cultural-political dialog designed to be sustainable in the long term.

After several intensive months, the first part of the program culminates in the fellowships of the three Namibian artists Vitjitua Ndjiharine, Hage Nasheotwalwa Mukwendje and Nesindano »Ques« Namises.

Exchange with local artists, initiatives and institutions

During their stay in Stuttgart, Akademie Schloss Solitude focused specifically on establishing and supporting an exchange between the fellows and various institutions, including the DLA – German Literature Archive in Marbach, the Linden Museum, the Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg, the Baden-Wuerttemberg Film Academy, the State Archives in Stuttgart, the ZKM – Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe and the StadtPalais museum in Stuttgart, through mutual visits. Here, the Akademie concentrated its efforts on establishing exchanges with associations and initiatives active within the independent art and culture scene in Stuttgart, including the Württembergische Kunstverein, Kunstverein Wagenhalle e.V., Chloroplast Stuttgart e.V. and the ISD – Initiative of Black People in Germany.

Dialog with Minister Theresia Bauer

In a dialog with the State Minister for Science, Research and the Arts, Theresia Bauer, the artists discussed the works they created during the fellowship period and reported on challenges they encounter repeatedly in the context of their practice as artists and activists. The resulting artistic works were presented to invited guests in the context of open studios. Here, the accessibility of German collections and archives and the ease with which they can be consulted was perceived as more difficult. The historian and curator of the event series, Memory Biwa, comments:

»The option to enter into a continuous and open working dialog with all German institutions with colonial collections and archives would be extremely beneficial and enriching for all concerned. In this way, we could work together to find appropriate ways to access their archives and collections and collaborate with them. Additionally, we could learn more about the way they handle the objects and how they educate the public about the significance of these sacred objects, and the knowledge that has emerged from this work.«

Difficult access to archives and new knowledge platform

Over the period of the fellowship residency, it became clear that archives and the work with archives play a significant and central role in artistic and activist work. As part of a platform for knowledge exchange created by Akademie Schloss Solitude, Ecosystems of Knowledge, the three Namibian fellows, together with other current fellows at the Akademie, explored the significance of archives intensively in various contexts. In particular, the extent to which the artists’ scrutiny of Western archives revealed significant power asymmetries as well as their inherent position of subordination in light of the fact that access to their own history is made difficult on various levels, emerged repeatedly. Ecosystems of Knowledge serves to enable artists to learn with and from each other. This is about »collaborative and jointly created knowledge«, says Elke aus dem Moore, Director of Akademie Schloss Solitude.

Second round: Artists from Germany in Namibia

In February 2022, the next three fellows will travel from Germany to Windhoek. Graphic designer and visual artist Corinne Nsimba-Lutonadio, artist, researcher and DJ Banu Çiçek Tülü and artist and consultant Miriam Chebaibai Koch will live and work in Namibia for four months. Also next year, a two-part series of events curated by Namibian historian and artist Memory Biwa will be taking place at various locations in both Namibia and Stuttgart.

SWR feature and exhibition at the Akademie

On September 23, SWR broadcast a feature on Vitjitua Ndjiharine, Hage Nasheotwalwa Mukwendje, Nesindano »Ques« Namises and their work in its culture program »Kunscht!« This is still available in the SWR media library via the following link:

Works by the Namibian artists created in Stuttgart over the last few months were presented at the Akademie Schloss Solitude’s Summer Festival on September 24 and 25, 2021, and some of these will also be on display until November 14, 2021 on Saturdays and Sundays from 1.00 – 6.00 p.m. in the context of an exhibition at the Akademie.

Testimonials from fellowship holders about their time at the Akademie

Visual artist Vitjitua Ndjiharine on her stay:

»My time at Akademie Schloss Solitude was full of interesting and exciting experiences. I came here as part of an exchange program between Namibian and German artists within the ›Namibia Initiative‹. The focus of this initiative was placed on restitution and reparation in the context of the legacy of German colonialism. It was wonderful to be part of the Solitude network and to meet artists from all over the world. It was also a unique experience to participate in an exchange with several artistic and cultural institutions in and around Stuttgart. Above all, I am grateful for the opportunity to have been part of this important initiative between Germany and Namibia. At the same time, I must say that more work needs to be done to challenge the power dynamics embedded in these kinds of exchanges. As a Namibian artist working within German archives and institutions, I believe it is important to underscore the fact that our access is always limited: To a certain project, to a certain time frame and to a certain budget. As a result, the exchange never feels complete or truly transformational from the artists’ perspective. This exchange resulted in a discussion about how to make these kinds of programs sustainable for the artists using input from the communities actually involved in them, and I hope and trust that the insights gained during these conversations will be put into practice more and more. Regardless of certain limitations, this kind of exchange is truly enriching for all involved, and I can only encourage other Namibian artists to apply for this residency.«

The poet Nesindano »Ques« Namises had this to say about his*her time at the Akademie:

»My time here has allowed me a great deal of space for creative and personal reflection. Especially as regards my work as an artist, a Namibian and a Person of Color. Initiatives like those of Akademie Schloss Solitude play an important role in redefining Namibian and German exchange. On the one hand, this is perhaps thanks to the two countries’ remarkable shared history, but is also, on the other, due to the importance of discussing shared histories and responsibilities in the context of decolonization. Even though my time at the Akademie has resulted in new networks and perspectives, I have found it even more important to ask myself: Who are the communities that can benefit from such initiatives on a larger scale? And what is our role in facilitating this? As institutions, as artists, as individuals?«

Visual artist Hage Nasheotwalwa Mukwendje on his experiences:

»My artistic residency at Akademie Schloss Solitude as a painter helped me realize that Namibian and German exchange is not just an idea or a conversation, but that my responsibility as an artist is to make things visible through my work and to connect everything. During my time here, I met many different artists from a wide range of disciplines. I benefited greatly from the joint discussions; to me, the exchange was a learning and sharing experience. I would like to bring this knowledge back to Namibia through my artistic skills. I also intend to continue my project by carrying out further archival research and focusing on materials such as sound recordings, articles and photographs.«