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Photographer's Note

I took my grandsons to see the newly opened Independence Memorial Museum yesterday and came away with mixed feelings.

I was impressed by the archival photographs which document the colonial era and the succession of uprisings and wars through the ‘German’ and ‘South African’ periods of rule. The process of appeals to the U.N. and the eventual Independence Elections were also well documented and took me back 24 years to a time when my husband was seconded to the north of Namibia as a ‘Presiding Officer’ at a rural polling station.

My disappointment was that the many murals, reliefs and sculptures were the work of the Mansudae Art Studio in North Korea. Namibia has talented artists and it would have been appropriate, I think, to showcase this talent and promote local artists.

The North Korean ‘art factory’ employs some 4000 people and 1000 artists. Much of the work they produce seems to be lifted from what I would call propaganda art (think old Soviet Bloc, Chinese and of course North Korean, etc.)

The new Namibia seeks to forge both identity and legitimacy as it moves away from its colonial past. The North Korean ‘style’ of monumental buildings and art works are certainly far removed from the old colonial styles and designs but make little, if any, connection with Namibia.

Having said that, I recommend a visit to the museum. There is a well-documented history of Namibia’s road to independence along with some very good archival material.

I include a couple of complimentary shots as an illustration to my notes.

For more information about the Mansudae Art Studio see : http://www.vice.com/read/behind-mansudae-the-most-prominent-art-institution-in-north-korea
For a fascinating Masters of Art dissertation entitled Postcolonial Architecture Through North Korean Modes: Namibian Commissions of the Mansudae Overseas Project by Meghan Laurel Elizabeth Kirkwood see: http://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/dspace/bitstream/1808/10702/1/Kirkwood_ku_0099M_11463_DATA_1.pdf

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This photograph is copyright of Rosemary Walden - © Rosemary Walden 2014. All rights reserved. Any redistribution or reproduction of the image in any form is prohibited. You may not, except with my express written permission, copy, reproduce, download, distribute or exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system

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