Encounters in the Namib

A bird puzzled by my artwork in the desert © Imke Rust

A bird puzzled by my artwork in the desert © Imke Rust (detailed view)

I have spent eight days in the beginning of April in the desert around the coastal town of Swakopmund to make artworks in nature. It is my way to raise awareness about the threats which our environment is facing. And it is my way of taking action. I believe that art is not only an aesthetic experience, but also a powerful and spiritual one. Just like the shamans and healers of the olden days have used drawings, symbols, rituals and objects to heal and change the vibrations of the current reality, I hope that my art can have a positive and healing influence.

The Namib Desert at the Atlantic coast in Namibia is currently under much threat, with uranium mines springing up and growing like fungi, huge chemical plants proposed to be built (who plan to get rid of their toxic waste in the Atlantic ocean) and even Phosphor mining plans on our shores. Not only these big obvious projects are threatening the desert and ocean, but also the thousands of people who mindlessly use the environment as their playground without consideration or awareness of the damage they are doing.

I am happy that more and more people are standing up and making their voices heard for saving our environment and there even being signs and actions from our government which gives us hope that they are not going to sell out our desert. I thought a lot about what I can do for my part, and decided that I stick to what I do best: art. Instead of painting posters against the ‘enemy’ I decided to do things pro nature, make artworks which symbolically protect the land from harm, bless it and celebrate its beauty, while at the same time raising awareness about the threats.

I am busy preparing the documentation of the works for my upcoming exhibition in June in Berlin and want to keep the artworks a surprise till then. Instead I will share with you pictures of some of the meetings we had during the eight days, in which we worked in the desert. Just to show you how alive the desert really is with creatures we often do not even notice. All of these and many, many more depend on our choices for their survival. And our own survival depends on a healthy and alive environment.

Horned Viper taking refuge in a shaded burrow

Horned Viper taking refuge in a shaded burrow

Although I have much time of my life in the desert, it is the first time that I personally spotted this highly poisonous small snake. A good reminder for me to tread carefully for my own protection and on the other hand I felt sadness, as she was living in an area where sand is mined and I guess it is only a matter of time, before she ends up being killed by the huge machines.

A  well camouflaged desert gecko

A well camouflaged desert gecko

Another gecko, not as fussed with camouflaging

Another gecko, not as fussed with camouflaging

A lizard who has lost its tail

A lizard who has lost its tail

A very friendly and inquisitive pregnant chameleon

A very friendly and inquisitive pregnant chameleon

A desert rabbit, sitting very still, in the hope that we do not see it...

A desert rabbit, sitting very still, in the hope that we do not see it…

A black scorpion

A black scorpion – very poisonous (you can tell from the large stingers and small fangs)

These are only some of the animals which we encountered while working in the desert, as I did not always have my camera ready….  I was so amazed to notice just how alive the desert really is.

Oh, and then while marveling at the horned viper, we also encountered some very noisy two-wheeled creatures:

Motorcycles and plastic bags in the desert

Motorcycles and plastic bags in the desert

I wonder how many of our small new friends they noticed? And how many of them survived the encounter?

If this matter is also close to your heart and you would like to show your support for the environment of the Namib Desert, especially around Swakopmund, please join the Facebook group Industrial Swakopmund – What Future do we Want?” and stay updated about the latest news and actions.

The art project was funded, in part, through a Grant by the National Arts Council of Namibia (NACN),  the opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the NACN.LOGO NACN

9 thoughts on “Encounters in the Namib

  1. Rodger Savory

    Ask the Namibian government to set a Holisticgoal for the nation and then test their decisions towards achieving that Holisticgoal. The lovely part about a HG is that anyone with the power to veto it must be involved in the process, i.e. all those traditional people who do not appreciate their delicately balanced lives being disrupted. Then enjoy watching people making the best decisions possible for the next 1,000 years. A HG by definition makes people think about the environment the culture and the money at the same time, far healthier. Many people in Namibia are using their HG’s to improve the land, environment and incomes so the knowledge is there.

    1. Imke Rust Post author

      I totally agree, and I know the Namibian people from the Holistic Centre are doing a lot to educate and I hope they will reach more and more people in the government and decision making positions fast. I think now is the time, that we all should get involved, each in their way and expertise, to create change and not just wait or hope for it. Having grown up with the holistic approach I definitely think it has many answers and solutions to problems we are currently facing.

    1. Imke Rust Post author

      It is my pleasure. And I cannot wait myself to share the images of the works, I am so excited, so do not worry, I will definitely post them soon!

  2. Veronica

    Thank you for bringing up this issue and for working on saving this precious and fragile part of our world. Art could be such a powerful tool to bring awareness. Shame I won’t get to see the exhibition. Regards, Veronica

    1. Imke Rust Post author

      It is a pleasure, as this is an issue very dear to me too, and I hope that my small contribution can be helpful in some ways. Do not worry – I will post pics of the artworks on my webpage after the exhibition – so everybody can see them. So keep checking back or subscribe, if you like 🙂

  3. Imke Rust Post author

    Dear Jutta – thank you so much. I am often thinking that there must be better ways of changing something, instead of just being “against” it or “fighting” it, and I hope that I can use my art in such ways. Combining the beauty with the ritual and symbolic powers, like I believe shamans and healers (esp in the olden days) have done.

    The show will run till the 16th of July – so I hope you will be able to still see it. Otherwise a more extensive exhibition of the works is planned for Swakopmund in November.

    The bird landed on the work and then flew around it several times, looking really puzzled.
    Big sunshine hug from Berlin to you!
    love, i

  4. Jutta

    Hello dear Imke,
    what a beautiful article! You are so right. In my opinion, creating beauty is always more powerful than creating resistance.
    Can’t wait to see your artworks! Will they still hang in July, might be in Berlin then.
    The pic of the bird and the artwork is priceless!
    big hug to you


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