Saturday, July 26, 2008

Namibian Playground

Namibian Playground is an acrylic painting, part of a series of works based on my experiences traveling abroad. My trip through Namibia in August of 2004 was one of my first experiences overseas. What I learned from the experience has had an immense impact on my life and has shaped the lens from which I view the world. I had the privilege of working very closely with youth at risk, offering my hands to help change diapers, my feet to keep the kitchen running, and my heart to provide educational programs at the children’s shelter they called home.

Through this experience, I was able to learn and journey with the children. Together in tight quarters we lived, broke bread, shared stories, shed tears, sang songs, and often danced until our feet hurt. I met many inspiring children, listened to incredible stories of courage, and got a glimpse at the complexity of factors contributing to poverty in Namibia. And I took many photographs in an attempt to document my experience.

I chose one of my photos to base a painting on 4 years later. The boy in the image is absolutely remarkable. He showed me a very passionate way of living; he gave 100% in expressing both the heights of his joy and the depths of his sorrow. He was one of the children living at the children's shelter there not because he had been orphaned, but because he had been rescued from a home where domestic violence was a reality. It was often difficult, yet a highly rewarding to work with him and learn from him.

This painting is based on a photo I took of this boy playing on the swing set made very creatively out of an old tire. This swing set is found in a playground I spent quite a bit of my time in. I was often up and in the playground before the kids woke up in the morning, as that is when I got my best work done painting a mural on the playground fence. This playground was where so much magic took place: where imaginations ran free, where new songs were composed, and where children from around town would gather and dance.

So many people have the misconception that if they are to go to Africa, anywhere in the continent, they'll be overwhelmed by the poverty and misery. And sure, there certainly is much that is overwhelming in Rehoboth, Namibia; I am not going to deny it. But what was so much more apparent and important to see was the way everyone was so alive, so in touch with one another, and so tuned in to their own dreams. The children, like the young boy here on the tire swing, reminded me of the importance of play in my own life. They taught me that no matter how adult I become, I must always remember my inner child. And no matter the circumstances that we face in our lives, we should always make time to visit the playground.


Anonymous said...

Wao!!!Good painting and wonderful way of describing Africa. Just love it.


Of course the opinion of a Namibian girl herself is important to me. Thanks Olivia for your feedback and your continued friendship. I think I may do more Namibia-inspired artwork after this one turned out so well.