The German forest comes to Namibia

A6 postcard

A6 postcard

Hentie van der Merwe Messenger 2007 Polyurethane Mask 68 x 46 x 23cm Stand 150cm   

A recent exhibition in South Africa provides an interesting comparison to Melbourne’s ‘jewellery of the forest’. Hentie van der Merwe has been studying the German archive of folktales collected from the Nama people in Namibia. She recognised this tales from her own childhood, though they were excluded from Afrikaner culture because of their violence and complexity.

It’s interesting in today’s South Africa than an Afrikaner artist can draw on this material. It would be inconceivable for an Australian artist to be making reference to Aboriginal mythologies in this way. Is this because of the greater respect for indigenous cultures in Australia, or our more Eurocentrist outlook?

One thought on “The German forest comes to Namibia”

  1. The german artist Anselm Kiefer visited Australia as the keynote speaker for the Adelaide Festival in 1992. His talk was titled ‘Boundaries, traces, tracks,songs.’
    It focussed on mixing an Aboriginal dreaming story with the journey of Ulysses.
    The dreaming myth was of a Lizard man who was pursuing his wayward wife.
    Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines had impressed Kiefer and this was where he sourced his story from.
    By mixing the two myths, the south and the north he was attempting to show how we all need a sense of where we are going.
    ART AUSTRALIA carried the full transcription of Kiefers talk several issues later.
    And another instance which I know of.. the Anthony Gormley sculptures on the salt lake near Menzies, Several of the senior Aboriginal people that visited them were quite upset.They saw Anthony Gormley as ‘copying’ aboriginal people by making dark figures . Plus they are situated on a dreaming site. All the information about how and why it was done meant nothing to them. They saw dark figures on a dreaming site.
    I think it will be quite some time before non indigenous artists broach indigenous mythology.

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