October - December 2021 — Visual Arts
Vitjitua Ndjiharine is a Namibian multidisciplinary visual artist whose work engages with themes of reclamation and transcendence of history. Her work explores ideas of refracting and reflecting the colonial gaze, colonial representations in the archive, resistance in the archive and disrupting problematic representations. Vitjitua’s artistic practice and research approach set out to reconstruct established forms of historical knowledge about the colonised world and its people in an attempt to question the limits of contemporary history.
During her residency at Atelier Mondial in Basel, Switzerland from October to December 2021, Vitjitua will engage with material objects that belonged to her family in the 19th century and which have formed part of the Hans Schinz collection in the Völkerkundemuseum Zürich since the late 1880s.
Vitjitua explains the origin of the objects in the collection: “Collected by Swiss Botanist and “explorer” Hans Schinz on an expedition to German South West Africa (GSWA) in the mid to late 1800s, these objects include pre-colonial cultural costumes, sacred cultural objects, household tools and more. The Schinz Collection contains 55 objects which, according to Schinz himself, were previously in the possession of Chief Ndjiharine of Omburo (who is my great-great-great grandfather). Further information on the provenance of these objects and the Ndjharine family can be found in the archive of the Basler Afrika Bibliographien (BAB) in Basel.”
Through detailed research of the Omburo objects and corresponding information in various Swiss archives, Vitjitua hopes to verify the provenance of objects and stage an artistic intervention to raise important questions relating to the topic of cultural repatriation. These activities relate to Vitjitua’s preoccupation with making historical and archival information more accessible to non-scholar publics, particularly in the so-called Global South.
Vitjitua Ndjiharine is a Namibian multidisciplinary visual artist whose practice spans painting, illustration, design, art direction and web design. Her approach draws inspiration from different academic disciplines – such as history, cultural anthropology, ethnography, mass media and communication as well as visual culture – to create work that is layered with historical and socio-political contexts. This approach attempts to link the present and the past, through empathetic storytelling that is both tangible and approachable for people in and outside academia. In 2017, Vitjitua received her bachelor’s degree in Studio Art from The City College of New York. In 2018, she was awarded a research fellowship by the Gerda Henkel Foundation in collaboration with the research centre for “Hamburg’s (Post-)Colonial Legacy.” This fellowship has allowed her to work in the archives of the Ethnological Museum in Hamburg and the National Archives of Namibia to develop strategies of deconstructing and re-contextualising the pedagogical function of images and texts found within colonial archives. Vitjitua has previously exhibited her work in New York City, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Windhoek.