Namibian narratives: Postcolonial identities in craft and design

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


This study presents the first holistic mapping of Namibian craft and design through narrative and commerce. At the centre of this study are the people of the Namibian craft and design world. With a focus on an independent and postcolonial Namibia, this study considers the impact of social and environmental forces on artefact makers and their artefacts. Thus, the cultural and social influences on rural and urban artefact makers, the roles narratives play in artefact making and marketing practices in different settings, and the presence of Namibian artefacts in craft and tourist markets of the southern African region are mapped. An ethnographic approach is followed in mapping the world(s) of Namibian craft and design. This approach is underpinned by scholarly work on narratives, craft and design theory and the practical application of postcolonial theory in fieldwork, analysis and representation of data.

This holistic mapping addresses the lack of coordinated strategies in, and theoretical knowledge about, Namibian craft and design. The thesis explores how Namibian artefact makers negotiate and sustain their identities and existences through their practices, and why they continue their practices in spite of the challenges they face. Their narratives reveal how their quality of life and work environments impact on their craft practices. Just as artefact making offers ways to ‘work through’ their particular life challenges, storytelling offers ways to make sense of difficult circumstances. This thesis demonstrates how stories and artefacts function in social realms and suggests that stories play a crucial role in socially sustaining Namibian artefact makers and their making practices. The potential contribution of stories to sustainable marketing is also demonstrated. Most importantly, this holistic mapping identifies the challenges of maintaining sustainable craft and design practices in Namibia and presents some opportunities for their development.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of South Australia
  • Connellan, Kathleen, Supervisor, External person
  • Patton, Chloe, Supervisor, External person
Award date11 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2014
MoEC publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

Field of science

  • Visual arts and design


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