top of page


August 2nd - September 8th 2018
National Art Gallery of Namibia

A history that is not fully understood or told or memorialised, is a history that lives in the present. The reign of terror that was the 1904-1908 genocide in Namibia lingers in this way in the psyche of the nation, even 110 years after the closing of the last concentration camp.

For a century the genocide was denied by many, and to this day there are some people who still believe it never occurred. They have not come to terms with the atrocities that took place across our land at that time.

The evidence is there in Von Trotha’s Extermination Orders. It is in the inter-generational memory of the descendants of those who were killed and those who survived. It is in the whispers of the Hanging Trees. It is in the bones that lie in the ground under houses in Otjinene, Swakopmund, and elsewhere, and under the Independence Memorial Museum, which is built on the site of the infamous Orumborombondi concentration camp.

We need to unearth this history, bring the truth to light, and heal the wounds of the past. As a nation it is impossible to build a future without righting the wrongs of the past and making sure that the knowledge of the past is availed to successive generations.

They tried to bury us is a continuation of Isabel Katjavivi’s 2017 art piece, The past is not buried. This exhibition deals with the unresolved past that is the genocide, and how it is all around us. We need to stop treading on the past in our present.

The floor installation is made of sand, stones and grass collected from within and around Otjinene. It is a scene of remembrance of those who died. The heads are made of air-drying clay. The fragility of the medium symbolises the fragility of life. The installation allows the audience to walk the thin line between the past and the present.

“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.”

(James Baldwin, I am not your Negro, 2016).

Installation photos by Martin Amushendje

Rise (with wall installation detail)
(floor installation detail)
(installation detail)
The poison
Ngauzepo – the hanging tree
Ngauzepo – Textures of history 2
Ngauzepo – Textures of history 1
Ngauzepo – Ancient wound
Otjinene sand – Layers of history 3
Otjinene Sand – Layers of history 1
They tried to bury us: About
bottom of page