2003 Power & Politics

Power and oppression are the basic themes in this series. The dog, a recurring image in my mixed-media works, is used as a metaphor for society, the misuse of power by politicians as well as the submissiveness of the vulnerable. The dog is considered to be man’s best friend and, at the same time he is also a dangerous and unpredictable animal. Similarly humans, often thought of as humane and peace loving can be vicious, dangerous and cruel.

My art raises questions about our motives for wars and conflicts.  The work is rooted in my local Namibian circumstance, but the concepts are universal and can be applied to any country or political situation. In my works I contemplate issues like oppression, discrimination, abuse, racial conflicts and political power struggles. I draw parallels between local issues and the USA led war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Zimbabwe land crisis and the Palestine conflict. I also draw links across time. In ‘Mugabylon’, the modern day situation of Zimbabwe becomes interwoven with the biblical tower of Babylon – the archetype symbol of the abuse of power and its consequences.

Understanding that the roles of the oppressor and the oppressed cannot be clearly distinguished should make us more conscious about our choices and question our motives. What is right for one is not necessarily right for the other and what is good today might be wrong tomorrow. Mankind is inherently driven by the instinctual need to be in control and in power, as to give us the best possible chance at survival. In today’s world we’ve reached a state where we have to reconsider our approach and reasoning in all aspects of our personal and social lives.

My art stems from my personal experiences, emotions, realizations, views and fears. At Namibia’s independence the power structures have changed and the roles reversed. Almost 15 years after independence everybody still looks at past injustices, ignoring what is happening today. My works have been criticized for not being politically correct, since I look at the current situation, from my personal (white) perspective, but in my art I try to make sense of the fact that it does not matter what race you are, or in what country you live, the problems will always be the same, just that it is a constant see-saw ride.  As the saying goes: ‘Today you are the dog, tomorrow you are the hydrant’.

I am one of the first Namibian artists who uses digital media in my art. My digital prints are a result of a cyclic process of drawing, painting, erasing, scanning, digitally manipulating, printing and again reworking the piece by hand, and are often based on images found in the printed news media. Through this art making process the meaning of the original images and concepts get revised, erased, reinterpreted and obscured. This approach becomes an integral part of the context of the works.  Any situation can be manipulated or viewed from different perspectives and can reveal a multitude of layers of seemingly opposing realities.