Namibia Places: MORE THAN JUST AN ARTIST’S JOURNAL
We all have a unique life path. Some people’s paths are more straightforward while others are full of twists and turns. The sum of our experiences, good and bad, eventually creates the individuals we are. In his recently published book, Namibia Places, well-known architect and visual artist Linus Malherbe opens up about his own journey through life and briefly lingers on some of the “what ifs”. The book, however, is also a celebration of his love of art and how it only came to full fruition much later the artist life. It is a collection of his paintings, sketches, observations, stories and anecdotes that shows a love and connection to the country he grew up in, the famous landmarks and it touches on some of the characters he met along the way.
Being an architect by profession, architecture features prominently throughout the book. Some of Namibia’s most iconic buildings are shown as his own artistic impressions, accompanied by historic or new photographs to give perspective. For each structure highlighted, Malherbe provides some background and history within the Namibian context, whether good or bad. What does set it apart from just a history book with pretty pictures is his own connection to each of them. He adds moments that link his life to these various places, whether it is a verbal skirmish with a friend in primary school under the Reiterdenkmal, or fishing with a handline off the old iron jetty in Swakopmund.
Malherbe left Namibia in 1990, only to return to Windhoek more than two decades later to open his own firm, Linus Malherbe Architects, in 2013. In his book he briefly touches on his time in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, but his contrasting memories pre-1990 and the reality of life in Namibia starting from the 2010s are the fascinating part. They show the difference of how things are remembered and how things are experienced in a country if you are not present to grow with the change. The book proves that his love for Namibia never waned and being away evoked a new spirit to explore and rediscover his country.
In what seems a bit out of place, Malherbe spends a considerable portion of the book on his theory of the famous White Lady rock painting in the Brandberg, hoping to debunk existing hypotheses. He claims that the white figure is a Viking woman from lost explorers who left their mark in north-western Namibia. Especially Himba traditions and culture, he reckons, were influenced by these visitors of more than a millennium ago. Although this section veers off in a different direction from the rest of his book, his interest in the subject is obviously an important part of his personal journey.
More than anything Namibia Places is an insight to Malherbe’s personal growth as an artist and individual. Very intimate at times, his brutal honesty about a dysfunctional childhood does not seek sympathy from the reader. It rather feels like a kind of therapy in which he accepts the past and uses those experiences to become a stronger, well-rounded human being and, more importantly, not to make the same mistakes with his own family.
Malherbe’s Namibia Places is a celebration of the freedom he has found through his art and an interesting read to anyone who wants to feel inspired.