Pictures saying a thousand words

July 31, 2015, 12:48pm

Pictures saying a thousand words

There is something devastatingly painful about staring into lifeless eyes. It is a pain which lingers long after you break the gaze between you and your subject.
I have often found these haunting eyes to belong to young children and elderly folk, whose spirit is broken beyond comprehension.
Broken by the antagonists in the stories of their lives, and the relentless hardships some people are cursed with in life.
The subjects in My Past, My Present, My Future, are the epitome of these lifeless eyes which speak of broken dreams and crushed spirits.
The exhibition, which is currently showing at the National Arts Gallery of Namibia (NAGN), is a culmination of works by Ernest Sirefwe, Olavi Munkanda, Lucas Kafwo, Robert Mukoya, Josef Mbambo and Michael Pröpper.
It consists of portraits of elderly people from the Kavango regions, accompanied by their life stories.
These are the stories of the joy they have experienced in life as well as the heartache and the suffering.
However, the element of their suffering stands out more so than the rest.
All the subjects speak of their poverty and how they struggle to make ends
meet, a fact which is not surprising, considering that they come from impoverished communities in the rural areas of the Kavango regions.
Should tears well up in your eyes as you walk through the gallery, it is to be expected. The years and the hardships they brought with them show on the subjects’ faces.
There is a beauty to those faces; some portray a longing for more, while others portray a resignation to their defeat.
The best way to describe this exhibition is that it is a documentary.
It looks at the people who are often forgotten as more and more people are consumed with the notion of urbanisation.
The exhibition is simple enough with portraits in various hues, which allows for the audience to focus on what truly matters: the subjects.
Their simplicity also plays a vital role in driving home the point of the exhibition, which by my deduction is telling the stories of the subjects.
However, the exhibition’s only flaw is that it fast becomes monotonous. The images begin to feel repetitive, and the fact that only one medium is used makes it worse.
Nonetheless, it does not take away from the stories being told, and provides for an interesting way for one to spend a leisurely afternoon while learning lessons on how other people live.

by Faith Haushona-Kavamba