“The youth in this country are all just looking for this Jesus figure to come and lead the way… They are all just looking for that political superhero…”

Quote and photo from the field. By ESR Rune Larsen.

2019.08.06 | Mia Korsbæk

All ESR's are on fieldwork in various parts of Africa in 2019. As part of the dissemination they will be sending a photo and a quote from the field while they are away.   

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This photo and quote from the field comes from ESR Rune Larsen who is doing his fieldwork in Namibia on youth and political security. Read more about his research here.

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These three pictures are captured during Friday night “sun-downers” with Decolonizing Space at Three Circles viewpoint in the eastern parts of Windhoek. They poetically capture how young Namibians create and enact alternative platforms of political and social engagement, in light of a severe economic crisis, high (youth) unemployment rates, deep-rooted socio-economic inequality and youths’ experienced exclusion from political decision-making. Meanwhile, having to balance ideals of radical social change with a reality of social sanctions governed by their own sets of repercussions.

Fellipus: “The youth in this country are all just looking for this Jesus figure to come and lead the way… They are all just looking for that political superhero…” Rune: “Yeah, and some already claim that they have found this… But I am just a bit worried with this thing – I mean if people like being seen as a superhero… I don’t know…” Fellipus replies: “Gutcha, I see what you mean, but on the other hand it can also be good – if that is what it takes for people to demand that things must change…” (Conversation between Rune Larsen and Fellipus Negodhi a member of Decolonizing Space)

Decolonizing Space is an activist-based arts collective consisting of young architectural students, architects in training and students from Windhoek’s College of the Arts. The group’s focus centers around issues of unfinished decolonization, stemming from a past of both German colonial rule and later South African Apartheid occupation; which is manifested in urban Namibia’s spatial structures and appearances. Through a combination of performance and installation art the group seeks to amplify the colonial sediments haunting the cityscapes across Namibia, and develop alternative decolonized public spaces through active community engagement. This is based on ideals of creating ownership through direct engagement with community members and other immediate stakeholders. However, ideals are challenged by the actor’s experienced reality, and Decolonizing Space’s work is oftentimes characterized by negotiations between members who, while working towards a common yet abstract goal, differ on their understandings of the necessary solutions.

The conversation quoted above occurred as I was driving home in one of Windhoek’s many taxis together with Fellipus, an artist and member of Decolonizing Space, after one of our late-night planning sessions. In the car our conversation fell upon the progress of my project, and eventually led to a broader discussion on Namibian youths, and their perceived political inactivity.

In my research I follow particular groups of young Namibians who in various ways come into contact with political entities throughout their everyday lives. One of these groups is Decolonizing Space, with whom I actively participate in the planning and implementation of different arts interventions. As illustrated in the picture this also turns into more convivial interactions, such as that particular Friday night at Three Circles viewpoint - which transformed into an informal philosophical debate on topics such as Africa’s and Namibia’s positions within the global political environment, and the future of Namibia in light of its current state of affairs. This was followed by an awkward encounter with 20 members of Windhoek’s city police, who patronizingly advised us not to use this public space at night due to the “risk of assault”. However, I still wonder if the residents of this affluent neighborhood might not have had an influence on this impressive mobilization of the Namibian police force.  

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