Exhibitions & Events

ARAK Art Writing Workshop (5-9 February 2024)

date
May 20, 2024
Category
Exhibitions & Events
Author
Barnabas ticha muvhuti for arak collection

 

ARAK Art Writing Workshop (5-9 February2024)

Barnabas Ticha Muvhuti

I facilitated the first Art Writing Workshop from the 5th to the 9th of February 2024 in Windhoek, Namibia. The workshop was an initiative of the ARAK Collection. It was organized and hosted by the Project Room. Its main aim was to cultivate and encourage a culture of art writing among aspiring art writers from selected Southern African countries with few committed professionals in the domain, and therefore, minimal documentation of various artistic practices, and a dearth of recorded art history.  The targeted nations also lack art infrastructure in the form of institutions and art publishing platforms.

Thirteen participants from four nations attended the workshop, namely:

 

André Gomes – Angola

Eveline Rugambo Remember Amwaala - Namibia

Nesindano Khoes Namises - Namibia

Muni Hoveka - Namibia

Ndeyapo Mbudje - Namibia

Joyce Kondo - Namibia

John Kalunda - Namibia

Bayron Cornelius Van Wyk -Namibia

Shomwatala Ndeenda Shivute-Nakapunda - Namibia

Pauline Buhlebenkosi Ndhlovu – Namibia

Banji Chona - Zambia

Usher Nyambi - Zimbabwe

Marilyn Mushakwe –Zimbabwe

 

In the workshop, the participants were exposed to research-based, creative and other possible approaches to art writing. They explored different forms of art writing, and were taken through some of the steps one would follow in the process of writing. Importantly, they read and critiqued seminal texts and other works written by seasoned art writers from different parts of Africa and its diaspora. They found some of the writings so intriguing leading to robust debates and intense conversations beyond the confines of the workshop. Participants were also taught how to pitch their stories for particular publishers and different art platforms.

 

 

 

While we met at the Project Room every morning, we also had the opportunity to visit and explore some of the art spaces and institutions in and around Windhoek in the afternoons. We were able to visit the Katutura Community Arts Centre, the College of the Arts and the John Muafungejo Art Centre where we were welcomed by PAPA Shikongeni, and had an artist-led walkabout of the students’ final year which was still up at the time. We also had a guided tour of the Namibian Arts Association’s collection housed at the National Art Gallery of Namibia, thanks to the Association’s Actofel Ilovu who took us through it. A participant of the workshop, Shomwatala Ndeenda Shivute-Nakapunda, briefed us on the history of the National Art Gallery of Namibia and accorded us the opportunity of exploring the works that were already up for the exhibition her curatorial team were busy installing. Every now and then, we would regroup and discuss ideas to write about during the visits, and amidst all the activities we engaged in.

Among the highlights of the workshop was the guest talk by the University of Namibia’s Dr. Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja,who is an academic, a curator, a performance artist and an activist. He shared his experiences as a writer and offered an honest assessment of the state of art writing in Namibia, highlighting that there is only one dedicated writer in the country – Martha Mukaiwa. Another highlight was the visit to Rudolf Seibeb’sTadami Khu Arts Studio in the Okahandja Craft Market, situated almost 75kilometres to the north of Windhoek. The participants had a first-hand experience of holding a conversation with an artist, asking a wide range of questions. The Project Room’s Frieda Luhl assisted with the interpretations as Seibeb speakes Afrikaans, besides his native Damara Nama. We also had a talk and walkabout by artist Toufic Beyhum whose Amoji exhibition opened at the project Room in the week of the workshop. I was impressed by the frank and friendly engagement the participants had with the artist.

Overall, the workshop was quite a success. Some of the briefs written by the participants following the visit to Seibeb’s studio will be included in a Curatorial Fellowship project the ARAK Collection will be publishing soon. Two of the workshop’s participants – Pauline Buhlebenkosi Ndhlovu and Marilyn Mushakwe – will take part in the ARAK Fellowship programme from July to December 2024. Plans are underway to assign some of the participants particular writing projects for the ARAK Collection.

 

For most aspiring art writers in Southern Africa, the challenge is where to publish the first article they write. It is possible that traditional platforms like newspapers might reject them, perhaps because they have resident journalists, or due to the fact that the aspiring writer has not established a voice yet. In that case I found it imperative to expose them to art blogs of writers like Andrew Mulenga from Zambia and Nyadzombe Nyamupeza from Zimbabwe. The two churned out pieces via their respective blogs and local newspapers had to approach them for articles and regular features. Anyone can do the same today on any of the electronic media platforms. I just hope they will gather the courage to write. We want to see our artists and institutions documented in the region, with the stories being told by our own people. There are so many art stories to expose to the world, the neglected historical ones and those of the emerging young artists. Art writing requires commitment and passion, and the participants I met in Windhoek seem to have that in their tanks.