Gerald Kraak Award Shortlist: A Dialogue with Julia Hango

Julia Hango, better known as JuliART has self-funded three successful solo exhibitions to kick start her provocative feminist art career in 2014 in Namibia. JuliART’s digitally created photographs are surreal and thought provoking as they are layered with movement and emotion that give the artworks an exploratory three dimensional space, challenging the notions of sexuality and gender. Her work utilises the power of the camera and the naked human body as a tool to to challenge society on issues of gender, bodily autonomy, morality, identity, and, perhaps most importantly, her own life as a nudist. JuliART, as part of a “So Namibia” Collective was invited to show at THAT ART FAIR 2016 in cape town, South Africa. She did a solo show that documented different people’s perspectives on nudity and being naked in Namibia. They have also been invited to exhibit at the 2016 Art Photo Market in Budapest, Hungary.

This conversation took place in a green bedroom in the cold sweetspot of Gaborone, Botswana and the cold, magical winter sunsets in Namibia by Email.

Gaamangwe: Once again, congratulations for being shortlisted for the Gerald Kraak Award. What does it mean to you to be shortlisted as a photographer and as a human being? 

Julia: Well, as a photographer I am grateful to have my work published somewhere where people who are alive today and many moons from now, will be able to experience my experiences through the energy transferred into the images. As a human, I am still very asleep to the reality of this whole thing. I know its happening, I know it makes me proud but why? We seem to strive for more and more and once we have it we aim for more. Nevertheless I am beyond grateful, beyond.

Gaamangwe: Yes, it seems the thing of being human is to always strive for more. It’s a very beautiful and strange thing. Your images are powerful. What inspired the energy behind their conceptualize, the capturing and full products?

Julia: My life, my relationship, the movements there that confront us about who we are as individuals and as a unit and the life we chose in this conservative society we live in, here in Namibia.

Gaamangwe: I am very interested to know more about the conservative society in Namibia, in particularly what its energy towards sexuality is. Obviously this is vast, but I am particularly interested in the sexuality dynamics you choose to explore for the anthology​. What narratives were you tackling through your images?

Julia: Here in Namibia everyone is extremely prude, perhaps it’s the way we are raised, to sort of be ashamed of our sexuality and acts of pleasure and desire. I have a hard time finding spaces, safe spaces to exhibit my work and if I do it always comes with a lot of public interference. The narratives I am looking at with these works are the exchange and expressions of masculine and feminine energy between these two (society says) different individuals who in this dance/fight become one, forever connected. The works also looks at feeling safe in my own brain, the dark small spaces between us, his energy of acceptance and unconditional love.

Gaamangwe: It’s quite powerful what you did here. How important was it for you to express the feminine energy as black feminine energy and the masculine energy as white masculine energy? What inspired you to explore the connection of these two energies, particularly taking into account the racial narrative of the images?

Julia: This was very important to me because I am a black african woman who fell in love with a white man who I relate to more than anyone else i’ve ever met or loved and that comes with beautiful unfoldings which I have now started documenting and creating around. The energy was inspired by how this man showed me true freedom by letting me be my true self and showing me what unconditional love looks and feels like.

Gaamangwe: I am interested in the creative process of this particular artwork. How easy was it for the models to be comfortable with nudity and intimacy, each other and the whole creative team? And also, how was the process for the photographer?

Julia: The truly magical thing here is that these are self portraits of myself and my partner. This series describes our daily struggles and love for one another. So no acting, just real raw emotions. We were at a transitioning place after we had just gotten our daughter, and him diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. 

Gaamangwe: This is powerful Julia. Thank you for sharing your life and work in this way.

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