Tuli Mekondjo

b. 1980, Namibia

Kululako elende loye, ove omuKriste paife (Shave off your Elende hairstyle, you are a Christian now), 2020
Mixed media on canvas

Text & Image courtesy Guns & Rain, South Africa, & the artist
This work is from a new body of work by Mekondjo’s in which she attempts to re-remember what pre-colonial life might have been like in a typical village in OuKwanyama, northern Namibia, before the arrival of Finnish missionaries in 1870.

The themes of change, resistance and erasure - in relation to both cultural practices and religion - take centre stage, as the rise of Christianity deeply reshapes the contours of Aawambo life. From naming practices and indigenous hairstyles to sacrificial rites, Mekondjo conjure a lot history back to life with an abundant demonstration of cultural symbols. She does this in parallel to her performance practice.

In this work she references the shaving of hair in this era as the Aawambo adopt Christian beliefs.

“The young girls would step into the missions with their elende coiffures only to emerge with clean shaven heads, clothed in white cotton dresses, and having acquired new names such as ‘’Mary’’ and ‘’Saima,” writes Mekondjo.