Rust imagines Twyfelfontein in Sweden

By Martha Mukaiwa for The Namibian Newspaper (copied here with kind permission)

and further down: an interview with Johan Adeström published in Söderhamns Kurieren (translated to English via the internet and copied here with kind permission.

Imke Rust in her art installation ‘Drawing Certainty from the Spring of Doubt’, at Erik-Anders Farm, Asta, Sweden

IN a once derelict hut in Sweden, award-winning multidisciplinary artist Imke Rust draws the spirit of Twyfelfontein across space and time.

Her installation which connects the decorated farmhouses of Hälsingland and the famed site of ancient rock engravings in northern Namibia was created for this year’s World Heritage Scholarship.

Rust was awarded the residency from a crop of 101 applicants from 34 countries and spent four weeks living and working at Sweden’s Hälsingegården Erik-Anders and Kristofers Farm.

The scholarship invited artists to connect the aspirational and elaborately hand-painted farmhouses of Hälsingland with another Unesco World Heritage site and Rust quickly saw a link with the rock engravings of Twyfelfontein, some of which, like ‘Lion Man’ and ‘Dancing Kudu’, are said to depict shamanic rituals and trances.

“Both sites are not ‘mere decorations’ but are intentional creative interventions, which allow us to transcend into an alternative reality,” she says.

Transforming the hut into a fairy tale-like space by painting wallpaper in the style of the decorated Hälsingland farms while referencing Twyfelfontein in images rendered akin to the famed rock engravings, Rust engaged in a highly intuitive process that combined found natural and man-made objects with retro telephone book pages which culminate in an installation she titled ‘Drawing Certainty from the Spring of Doubt’.

Though the installation is in Sweden and draws on Twyfelfontein, Rust maintains that neither becomes the other.

“The installation creates a room where both sites are in correspondence with each other, without imposing one on the other. Correspondence is an open-ended, dialogical process of unfolding and becoming,” she says.

To Rust, this straddling and correspondence between realities, cultures, time and space, provides a unique opportunity for learning and connection.

“Maybe a bit like eavesdropping on a conversation between the two sites and making up your own story from the elements you recognise and the ones which seem strange and unfamiliar. Or like stumbling into an unknown cave and finding more and more treasures as you look, but not fully understanding them.”

Honoured to have her installation supported and on show at the Erik-Anders World Heritage site which receives around 30 000 visitors per year, Rust left Sweden with the feeling of having highlighted our shared humanness.

“One of the central ideas of my art and installation is to show how humans are much more alike than different,” Rust says.

“We marvel at the ‘other’ and how exotic they are, but once we look a bit closer, we can realise that we all have the same needs, hopes and fears.”

Visit imkerust.com to explore the installation online.

–martha@namibian.com.na; Martha Mukaiwa on Facebook and Instagram; marthamukaiwa.com

See more images and info HERE.

Interview:

International artist weaves together world heritage from Africa and Hälsingland: “Feeling a bit like a curious child”

What do artistic elements in Hälsingland farms have in common with rock carvings from a world heritage site in Namibia?

“Quite a lot”, says the acclaimed Namibian artist Imke Rust, who for a month worked on an art project at Erik-Andersgården in Söderala.

This is the third time that the World Heritage Scholarship has been awarded by the Gävleborg Region. This year, the Namibian artist Imke Rust has received 5,000 euros to create art where two world heritage sites are linked: Twyfelfontein, an area with rock engravings in Namibia and Erik-Andersgården in Söderala.

This year, more than a hundred applications were received from 34 different countries, but the jury stuck to Imke Rust’s application.

She was born and raised in the Namibian capital Windhoek and has on two occasions received the country’s finest art award from the Namibian national art gallery. Nowadays she lives mostly in Germany.

The visit to Sweden is her first, and she did not know much about the country.

– I had an image that it is a well-ordered country far north, with cold winters, she says and smiles, after just having had experienced a hot summer.

Four weeks ago, she came empty-handed to Erik-Andersgården with the task of pursuing her creative idea: to interweave the Hälsinge farms in an interesting way with Namibia’s first world heritage site Twyfelfontein, which means the doubtful spring in Afrikaans, as there is not always water.

– From the beginning, I thought I would do something inside the house at Erik-Andersgården, but the ideas did not work completely, says Imke Rust.

And she is not an artist who works conventionally, strategically and goal-oriented. One of her watchwords is “trust the process”. Usually many small things must happen before the big thing falls into place.

“I had a vague idea, but I was also clear that I am open to the creative process to happen. The places and the material tell me what to do next. It’s like a dialogue. Communicating with the places and the objects and asking how they want to get together”, she says.

She prefers to call herself a multimedia artist. Which means that she uses what is available to take the creation forward.

“I love working like this, to just listen and feel and accept the process. In a way. But it can also be frustrating. As a person, I am really structured as well and like to have a plan for what to do. There may be some conflict …

– And of course I can feel stressed when I have a limited time of four weeks and I have received a scholarship where there are expectations. It can feel a little strange when people come and ask: How are you, what are you doing? And one can only answer: I do not know yet. But I have realized that this is how I work, she says.

But what began with empty hands and an empty sheet has now resulted in an art installation. A walk in the meadows around the farms in Söderala has now ended in a small abandoned cottage a few steps from Erik-Andersgården, which has been given new life.

It with the help of old objects found in the cottage and with new elements of paintings from Twyfelfontein.

– The first thought is of course that there are totally different places from completely different parts of the world. But people have always decorated and used art to communicate and tell things. It does not matter if it was 5,000 years ago in Africa or 300 years ago in Hälsingland. The need is the same, says Imke Rust.

She describes the rock engravings in Twyfelfontein as a way to create an alternative reality. Something that has also been common in Hälsingland.

– Even in the Hälsinge farms, people painted and tried to imitate precious materials such as marble. To make it look more glamorous and finer than it really was.

The tiny cottage was abandoned and full of dust and debris, but also contained a wood stove, wooden chair and some other small items have now been given an alternative reality.

The walls are now decorated with old pages from a telephone directory with exotic painted animals similar to those in Twyfelfontein and small rock carvings in miniature.

– It was only in the last few days that everything came together. I have not really been able to show anything before now.

And how does it feel to leave it behind you now and leave here?

– Exciting and a little sad. I have put so much energy into it. But I like working with things that are non-permanent. When I open the door and walk away, perhaps nature and the rain will destroy it over time. It is also an interesting process…

– If you look in here, you may not understand everything immediately. But your mind will surely create new stories. I hope you feel a bit like a curious child when you look around here, says Imke Rust.

Johan Adeström for Söderhamns Kurieren, originally published in Swedish, translated via Google Translate.

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