Fashion and textile artist Melanie Sarantou explores themes of marginalisation and stratification in her weaving titled ‘Just community’. Four weaves, constructed from flax twines, ropes and chain strata, symbolise Namibia’s economic and class stratified communities. Roughly connected in webs of meaning, communities tend to organically shape in clusters as people live and improvise their existences from one moment to the next. Communities’ histories, experiences and life narratives shape futures that are part of or indirectly connected to centres, which may also be shifting. For many Namibians, especially those forging their lives in economic disadvantaged margins, shifting centers meant political and perhaps social freedom, but the gnawing shackles of poverty continue to hold them back.
The weaves are connected and intersecting with scaffolding which symbolise interstitial spaces – those in-between spaces and moments where identities are in flux, shaping and changing. Due to Melanie’s own experiences with shifting centres, her weaving was a physical encounter of ‘working her way through’ complexities of in-between realities. Living and working in marginalities, Melanie notes:
I perceive margins as spaces where I can challenge, rebel against and work on the impossible. In these spaces I resist becoming an unrecognisable substance of the main stream as I am able to continue discovering the creativity in both myself and others. In the margin I am able to resist losing my identities, especially those that are connected to Namibia and Africa.
Answering the question ‘where is my margin’ is perhaps more difficult for her, because she prefers to think and plan beyond, instead of seeing borders and boundaries as hindrances or limitations. This does not mean that she thinks from the position of the centre, but rather to negotiate through and around centres and into peripheries. Melanie believes this form of intermediation is possible for those who are familiar with, and came to terms with the advantages and disadvantages of both centres and peripheries.