Isabel Tueumuna Katjavivi is a multimedia artist living and working in Windhoek/Namibia.
She was born in New Haven CT/USA before the 1988 Namibian independence, to a British mother and a Namibian father who was in exile for 27 years and active in the independence movement. Her work uses art as a tool for self-healing, exploring trauma, negotiating identity and intergenerational memory.
Isabel studied for a BA degree in international relations at Webster University in Leiden/Netherlands and Regents College in London/UK from 2006–2010. She also graduated from the University of Namibia in 2014 with a BA degree in visual arts, majoring in visual culture and creative expression, and minoring in political studies.
She is currently working as a project assistant within the EU-funded Museum Outreach Program, which is headed jointly by the Goethe Institute in Namibia and the University of Namibia. Her previous roles include consultant for national training on artistic freedom contracted by UNESCO Namibia; art advisor and collector; cultural officer and curator at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Center; curator at the National Art Gallery of Namibia, and artistic director of two Namibian short films.
In her award-winning installation The past is not buried (2017, National Art Gallery of Namibia), and her subsequent exhibitions and installations They tried to bury us (2018, National Art Gallery), Unearthing (2019, Goethe Institute Johannesburg/South Africa), They tried to bury us (2019, Yaoundé/Cameroon and Akademie der Kunst, Berlin/Germany), as well as her works in the Ovizire.Somgu: From where do we speak? exhibitions (2018–2019, Hamburg/Germany; 2019 and 2020, Windhoek), Katjavivi explores two key themes – memory and the OvaHerero Genocide (1904–1908), using photography, moving images, clay sculptures and material from sites of trauma.
Her more recent works include Swapo Office, London 1977. Redacted. Outlines of memory. Missing narratives (2021), Namibia Centre Jackson Kaujeua, 1985. Redacted. Outlines of memory. Missing narratives (2021), At home, 1984. Redacted. Outlines of memory. Missing narratives (2021), and Namibia Centre baptism, 1985. Redacted. Outlines of memory. Missing narratives (2021), works from An everyday archive of independence online exhibition by StArt Gallery, Windhoek and We speak from the grave (2020), a work for the exhibition Ovizire.Somgu: From where do we speak? (2020, Frans Nambinga Arts Training Center, Windhoek). Katjavivi has traced, blacked out and carved prior works into these photos, rendering the individuals in them anonymous. Photographed again, against sand, the images link to Katjavivi’s broader creative process, where she works with the earth as a site of witness to the historical violence inflicted on Namibians by oppressive regimes. The grand narratives of state-sanctioned history tend to erase all but the most prominent figures from the story. Here, Katjavivi makes this tendency visible, while also highlighting the personal items that surround the silhouettes, subverting their erasure.
Katjavivi is the recipient of two art prizes: the Bank Windhoek Triennial 2017 – overall first prize winner, and the Bank Windhoek Triennial 2014 – 3rd prize in new media.