NAMIBIA: Lessons on the Subway


As a cartography-obsessed child, I could draw its railroad system (a freak-skill not exclusive to Namibia) before I could read or pronounce its capital – Windhoek. One of my legit BFFs is from there. Angelina Jolie delivered Shiloh onto the world here. It’s one of just five places on my bucket list … Enter, Donald Trump at the United Nations on September 20, 2017 with his “NAMBIA” nonsense. Namibia is the only African country that supplies beef to the burger-crazed USA meat market. You’d think President Steaks would know.

This brings me back to summertime Berlin.

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Berlin’s Art in the Underground program turns its metro stations into public gallery spaces. During my visit in May, I stopped by U5 Schillingstraße to check out a documentary exhibition about complex Namibia-Germany relations which have run the historic gamut from colonial genocide to support for its independence movement half a century later. Below you can read the artist’s statement, but I wanted to encourage NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority to consider commissioning similar unabashedly sociopolitical installations during United Nations assemblies.

The more you know…

“The SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organisation) Liberation Movement fought for Namibia’s independence from South Africa from 1960 to 1990 and has governed the country since 1990. In a series of billboards, the artist Laura Horelli pays special attention to the period between 1980 and 1985 when the English-language journal “Namibia Today” was printed by “Druckerei Fortschritt” in Erfurt in the former GDR. Its editorial board was based in exile in Luanda in Angola …. The artist Laura Horelli has produced 18 billboards inspired by the journal. The posters have been partly printed by “Fortschritt”’s successor, “Druckhaus Gera”. The posters each combine a front page from “Namibia Today” with collaged material about the journal’s history in the GDR. Since the journal remains largely unresearched, a number of the images are brought together associatively … The posters are presented in Schillingstraße Underground Station on the U5 line. The line is located in former East Berlin and is currently being extended into the ‘West’. Here the artist recalls the complexity of the solidarity movements and policies in the GDR. The title “Namibia Today” also evokes further associations that recall the colonial history of German South-West Africa (1884–1915) as well as the ongoing negotiations about the German genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples (1904–08). What is Namibia today – seen from current perspectives regarding the past?”

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