Share My Owambo

Dotted with tiny villages and wide open plains, Owambo offers an atmosphere of stunning scenery, lush vegetation and true African culture. Alpheus Mvula, an Owambo artist, shares his Owambo...

Owambo.001“When I started to travel, I spent a lot of time in Europe working on my craft, my art, but being away from Namibia made me reflect a lot on my identity and how I translate this through my art.

The theme that is strongest to me can be traced back to my ancestors, the Owambo royal families of Kambonde and Nhale. The theme is our connection to cattle, or oongombe in Oshiwambo.

In Owambo you see cattle everywhere. Cattle are like human beings, and there are certain cows that are just like kings with control over all the other cattle. When I was a young boy, I looked after the cattle and when my father died, I thought first of how much his cattle meant to him. He named his cattle after members of the royal family, my extended family, and now my artwork reflects this same feeling and I use these same names to identify my pieces.

I grew up listening to stories of kings and cattle; they are intertwined in my mind and in my art. You can learn more about this connection by visiting the Museums of Oniipa and Olukonda. This is where the King welcomed the Finnish when they set up their missionary station. The King knew it was important for his people to learn to read and write. This was long ago, 1870, but the station is still there and this is part of my Namibia that tourists can share.

When I have guests come home with me, we visit my village and the homestead so that they can get a sense of what our daily lives are like. There are also some historical trees in the area that are very beautiful after the rains.

When I travel in Namibia, I like to spend time in Omaruru. It is very interesting for artists. My sculptures begin from pieces of granite and marble found in the Omaruru area and in one of my recent exhibitions, Namibia’s founding fathers and historical figures featured in my sculptures. So I continue to integrate history into my artwork, whether it is traditional leaders or symbols of traditional ways of life, like my beloved cattle.”