Hangula’s Omaalala art project shows price of development

13 Jan 2018 17:40pm
WINDHOEK, 12 JAN (NAMPA) – Erastus Hangula, a Visual Arts graduate student from the University of Namibia (UNAM), uses his art as a weapon to fight against the distractions of his village, Omaalala.
Hangula, in 2015, then in his second year of studies, formed part of a group of graduate students from UNAM who exhibited at the National Arts Gallery of Namibia.
His work was on a series of three abstract paintings on the 2015 refugee crises in Syria.
He placed a great deal of interest on the effects, experiences and rejection of the Syrian refugees, both in Syria and Europe.
“I am using my art to create awareness and hope that it will bring forth some changes,” said Hangula.
The artist prides himself on being an activist who is motivated by the need to improve and create awareness on issues affecting the community, society and politics.
His recent work was motivated by the Northern Railway Line Extension Project that passes through his village, Omaalala, situated between Ondangwa and Ongwediva.
The project, which started in Tsumeb in 2002, also included construction of a bridge over the main road between the two said towns.
“I was very shocked when I went home for the holidays, there was development, but this development came at a cost to the environment we live in. As an artist, I thought I should do something,” said Hangula.
Hangula’s photographs of Omaalala are part of an exhibition by UNAM Visual Arts Graduates, which commenced on 08 November until 03 February at the National Arts Gallery of Namibia.
His pictures are displayed against the wall of the staircase leading to an upper level of the building, telling a story that ascends with each step taken to the top.
The photo exhibition starts with a picture of a borehole that has been painted with the words, 'Omaalala, Not for Sale'.
This, Hangula says, was done by himself and a group of vigorous young men at his village in a bid to prevent the village from being sold off.
“We are facing a danger of people coming and robbing the villagers of their productive and quality land which they use to harvest food,” noted Hangula.
Another picture is that of a tree that has been uprooted from the ground laying on its side with some of its roots still in the ground fighting to survive while the rest are visibly dead.
“This is an indication of how big trees have been destroyed for the construction of the railway,” mentioned Hangula.
He has two more pictures depicting how the environment has been impacted by the construction of a bridge and where there has been sand mining.
The end of the staircase is the climax of his photo exhibition with a picture of a woman holding a portrait of her late son who drowned in one of the pits that remained as a result of sand mining.
The woman’s son drowned last year during the rainy season when the pit was filled with rainwater.
Hangula stressed that he is not against infrastructural development.
But his photography is meant to make people aware of the heavy price that development comes with.