In retrospect: the 2013 project
‘I want to see artist in one space working and sharing an experience. I believe such programs are what make artists grow.’ (Maria Caley, 2014)
Maria Caley, ‘Perunda’, block printed pigment on silk chiffon, 145 x 390 cm, 2013.
Maria Caley is a Namibian textile artist and fashion designer who has represented her country at many international fashion festivals such as the Muoti Finnish fashion week in 2007, the Arise Africa Fashion Week in 2009, the Berlin Import Shop in 2010, the Festival International de la Mode Africaine (FIMA) in 2011, and the African Fashion Reception hosted in Nigeria during July 2014.
In 2013 Maria visited South Australia to participate in an artist residency at the Nexus Multicultural Centre in Adelaide and the Port Augusta Cultural Centre in the Mid North region of South Australia. During her residency Maria hosted at these centres artist talks and workshops, including an artist talk at the postgraduate seminar series of the School of Art, Architecture and Design at the University of South Australia. Maria’s residency was generously funded by the National Arts Council of Namibia.
During her residency Maria also assisted with the installation of the ‘Namibia’ exhibition at the Nexus Gallery which showcased some of Namibia’s best art, craft and design. Crafts of three craft collectives, the Ohandje Artist Cooperative, Katima Craft centre and the Omba Arts Trust, were displayed next to Maria Caley and Chakirra Claasen’s textile art, Fillipus Sheehama’s prints and textile art, an extract of Erik Schnack’s illustration serious ‘Bulletproof’, and Attila Giersch’s jewellery design from his personal and Tameka collections.
‘Namibia’ showcased Maria’s new collection of textile art incorporating wood block printing, dyeing, appliquéing and stitching on silk chiffon. She collaborated with College of the Arts student Ishmael Shivute who produced woodblocks, very similar to the Kavango woodcarvings, for her printing technique. Maria experimented several years with natural dyes and pigments and she often uses bird plum (bark from the bush) and ‘otjize’ (red ochre). The textiles Maria creates should be viewed as outcomes of processes since no textile leaves her hands unless she is totally satisfied with the outcome. If colours are not satisfactory or textures too monotone she simply continues the development of her work.
With a critical eye and feel for the textiles she carefully crafts she knows exactly when to continue and when her work is complete. ‘Perunda’ is exemplary of her approach and when Maria reflects on this collection her intimate connection with her work is revealed. These sheer, floating art textiles have all been hand crafted during intricate processes resulting in the artist’s deep attachment to the work. Initially these textiles were planned and made to be used in her fashion designs, but this idea was left on the wayside when the artist realised she was not able to put scissors to them. Instead, they were included in her textile art collection and titled ‘Perunda’, which means ‘a place where people dwell temporarily’.
In hindsight Maria remarks on the ‘Namibia’ exhibition:
“The audience was very engaging in the work to the point of buying works on the exhibition. Telling our own stories of our journeys and lives through our work … I believe it (‘Namibia’) was quite a different experience, one that reflected great quality of Namibian work.”
Art South-South caught up with Maria one year after her residency with the aim to explore how her Australian experience impacted on her development as an artist. “It has been an enriching experience and also a point of reflection of what I’ve been doing as an artist and a designer”, comments Maria. Due to her busy schedule at the University of Namibia where she lectures fashion design, and her art and design activities which she practice in her studio whenever she has a spare moment, Maria reveals:
“It’s quite rare that I get a chance to reflect and deeply think about the type of work I do, and why I do what I do. I believe I have discovered another deeper level of intimacy in my work. When I now reflect on my visit down there it is so profound … how I view myself as an individual and artist/designer … indeed, we made contacts in Australia … totally new to us!”
Reflecting on the Namibia Australia Artist program (NAAUA) she emphasises:
“It has been of great value. It’s quite challenging for a designer or artist to find the financial support to continue and venture outside our border, so the National Arts Council of Namibia’s support is greatly important. I would like to see a chance for artists or designers from different countries to come together, interacting and sharing their stories. I want to see artist in one space working and sharing an experience. I believe such programs are what make artists grow. Often you don’t feel the effect right away, but there is no way you come back from such an experience still being the same.”
Although finding sufficient funding to participate is challenging, Maria thinks that “most people not involved in the project … see it as a chance to travel, [but] it is always enriching to experience a place and people … and to learn about the similarities of Australia and my country in nature and people and [colonial] history.”
Review by Melanie Sarantou, Project Manager of Art South-South, 2014.
Overview of the 2013 Project
Namibian textile artist and fashion designer Maria Caley participated in an first residence program in October 2013 in collaboration with Australian partners Nexus Multicultural Arts, the University of South Australia and the Port Augusta Cultural Centre. This project was generously funded by the National Arts Council of Namibia.
Maria Caley, “Namibia Echoed”, dyed silk on canvas with PVC Himba beads, 120 x 70 cm, 2012.
An exhibition of Namibian art, craft and design was exhibited under the title ‘Namibia’ during October 2013 at the Nexus Gallery in Adelaide. Activities included an exhibition at the Nexus gallery in which the work of 5 Namibian artists and designers and three craft groups were represented. Work presented: Maria Caley, Fillipus Sheehama, Erik Schnack, Chakirra Claasen, Attila Giersch, Hui-a khoe Foundation, Katima Craft Centre, Ohandje Artist Cooperative and Mud Hut Trading for the Omba Arts Trust. The exhibition was curated by Victor Krawczyk and installed by Andre Lawrence, Melanie Sarantou and Maria Caley.
A textile printing workshop was also hosted by visiting Namibian artist Maria Caley at Nexus Multicultural Arts in October 2013. The workshop focussed on repeat printing techniques with found objects. Fourteen artists, members of the public and youth attended. Ms Caley also hosted an artists talk at the Port Augusta Cultural Centre and the postgraduate research seminar at the School for Art, Architecture and Design at UniSA. Images of the ‘Namibia’ exhibition and artist activities can be viewed in the galleries of this website.
Outcomes of the 2013 Project
The participating Namibian artists, craftspeople and designers were able to further their audiences through exposure to an international audience. Some artists and craftspeople additionally benefited from the artefacts sales. There is notable support for the continuation of this project from organisations in both countries.
For more information on Namibian visual art click here to visit Visual Artists Namibia.