A group of family, friends and fans of the late visual artist, John Mwafangeyo, gathered recently to celebrate what would have been his 80th birthday at the National Arts Gallery of Namibia.
Artists he influenced paid tribute to him, with Ndasuunje Papa Shikogeni delivering a moving speech, emphasising the spiritual and therapeutic aspects of art.
Shikongeni honoured the first artists influenced by Mwafangeyo, including Frans Nambinga and the self-taught artist Naudano Hamunyela.
“We are gathered here to celebrate the first legendary; Mwafangeyo is my ancestor. John paved the way for us artists,” he said
He added that working with Mwangeyo was fun and that he made art so alive and interesting. He was talented, and he told a story in his paintings.
Naudano Hamunyela, a self-taught artist, who has been drawing for 12 years, described art as a passion, although she is a student and does not do it professionally.
“I always wanted to imitate cartoons. When I got into high school, I had an art teacher, who sort of honed my skills and taught me different techniques.”
She explained that she exhibited at FNCC and other restaurants around Windhoek. The various artists who inspire her in Namibia have taught her that art can be a profession.
“As an artist, Mwafangeyo is my inspiration – and he will always be my inspiration. I am inspired by his work,” she noted.
She added that during her spare time, she visits the National Arts Gallery of Namibia to see people’s art, and she loves it there.
Salinde Willem, another artist, credited Papa Shikogeni’s words, ‘Art is Therapy’, for encouraging her to sketch and pursue art during her school days.
She later majored in dance and visual arts at the College of Education, and then further developed her skills at the College of the Arts, where she crossed paths with Papa Shikogeni at the John Mwafangeyo Centre.
“I remember in my childhood years, Papa Shikogeni said, ‘Art is a Therapy’, so I would always get a paper between classes when not doing anything to sketch something or just express my emotions and ideas,” she said.
Willem also got compliments from her classmates for her sketches, making her develop confidence in herself to actually pursue artistry. When she finished high school, she wanted to major in Arts – but unfortunately, there wasn’t any institution at that time that taught art as a major.
She waited for a few years – and in 2008, she joined the College of Education, majoring in dance and visual arts.
“We did a lot of mediums like printing, textiles and sculptures – just to mention a few. When I started working, I went to the College of the Arts to build more skills, where I met Shikogeni at John Mwafangeyo Centre. And he said to me, invest in the art – at least an hour a day; make time to know your strength area just discover yourself through different techniques,” she said.
John Ndevasia Muafangejo was born on 5 October 1943 in Etunda lo Nghadi, Angola, and he died on 27 November 1987 in Windhoek.
He was a Namibian artist, who became internationally known as a maker of woodcut prints.
He created linocuts, woodcuts and etchings.