Namibian artists paint murals around capital city to inspire visual arts

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Namibian visual artists have come together to start a mural project around the capital city Windhoek in a bid to inspire, educate and promote visual artists while establishing the city as an arts and culture hub.

Emmanuel Enkara, the head of the project, who is also the creative director and founder of the ENK Institute for Public Art, told Xinhua that the concept behind the project was to showcase the country's national identity through art.

"When people come to this country, they do not know what our national identity is and this was the main drive behind the idea. We are also doing this to promote visual artists. It is time for our visual artists to have a platform to show our national identity and our work while also giving them large-scale lucrative projects that will help them make a living," he said.

The Windhoek Mural Project commissioned five artists who have so far painted 10 murals at different spots around the city centre.

"It's important to have public art in the city because it creates a difference to the open and neglected areas of the city that are sometimes dull and uninspired," Enkara said, adding that art has a unique ability to change the psychology of the people, especially during the devastating COVID-19 times where everyone is living under stressful conditions.

"People are affected by what they see. We are hoping that the public art will change people's moods and put a smile on their faces as they walk around the city going about their business," he said.

Above all, Enkara says, they want the art to add to the attraction of the country, to have some visitors who come just for the art.

"The presence of art is more important than ever, the importance comes from adding something to our tourism sector that gives Namibia an identity, because these artists are expressing themselves on a large scale," he said.

John Kalunda, one of the artists who contributed to the project, said he painted his mural to express himself and pay homage to Namibia's athletes, especially for the good work they did last year.

"I wanted to show the world the skills and talent that we have in Namibia both in arts and in sports. It is an appreciation for our young athletes who put our country on the map," he said.

Michelle Isaak painted a mural called, 'A much-needed escape', which is an array of emojis that she says is the language most young people use so the mural is reaching out to the young generation.

"In our daily lives, we fit into our busy routines, the mural is an interactive display of how all our human emotions are represented in very cute emojis," she said.

According to Enkara, Namibian visual artists struggle to showcase and make a living through their craft because the country lacks art collectors who appreciate local art.

"Young visual artists are struggling to penetrate the market because traditional art collectors are older and so they support older artists which are forcing visual artists to become more contemporary. This is killing our industry and so this is a way of keeping it alive," he said. 

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