This body of work is connected to a wave of decolonial art and intersectional activism in Namibia. The exhibition — consisting of photographs, a performance reading, and a video edited by Jannous Aukema — aims to highlight questions related to history and memory and is a counterpoint to state-sanctioned memorialisation. How does one respond to problematic monuments? What does it mean to work together to envision new rituals and public spaces?
Symbolically confronting the colonial monument of Curt von François in Windhoek on the day of its removal on 23 November 2022, ‘Man of War’ — created by Namibian-born artists Gift Uzera, Nicola Brandt and Muningandu Hoveka — forms part of a broader effort to work through traumatic legacies connected to German colonialism and apartheid, but also to intersectional violence tied to contemporary patriarchy and identity politics.
In these settings, queer and feminist approaches provide a departure point for this embodied memory work in an attempt to go beyond colonial and tribal legacies and nationalized identity politics.
Extract from the ‘Practices of Self’ in the journal of Memory Studies:
For many activists in this intersectional movement in Namibia, queer identity is regarded as the most decolonial act of being, a freedom to be exactly what one chooses; to break away from fixed identities, which were especially entrenched by colonial ethnographic representation and under apartheid’s racial classifications.
Muningandu Hoveka and Nicola Brandt see their feminist agendas and performance work as being closely allied to trans-rights; for their feminism is not feminism if it is trans-exclusionary. All freedoms are inextricably linked. This sentiment returns to the underlying message of the activist movement, which is to combat structural violence, inequality, sexism, patriarchy, and homophobia, which are seen as a perpetuation of coloniality.
Emerging activists in Namibia see themselves campaigning across a range of intersectional issues, including decolonizing spaces, women’s rights, and LGBTIQ+ rights. In the past few years, Namibia has seen a flourishing of diverse civil society organizations, businesses and grassroots activists committed to this work. […]
Namibia’s history of colonialism and apartheid and our own path as young citizens in a post-independent nation are tied up in the symbolism of this work. The embodied performance work speaks directly to the desire to imagine new futures and trans-feminist spaces and to take an explicit stance against ethnicized identity politics. In their letter to the monument, Uzera and Hoveka emphasized that ‘the act of allyship plays a critical role in offering solidarity and creating a more inclusive environment’(Uzera and Hoveka, 2022).
As a Namibian of European descent, I understood my role in this collaboration to be precisely that; an act of allyship and self-reckoning in line with the philosophy at the core of ALOK’s work: ‘I shouldn’t have to understand you to love you, I want you to be safe and free existing in the world’ (ALOK: The Urgent Need for Compassion | The Man Enough Podcast, 2021).