ABOUT TONY FIGUEIRA
Tony Figueira was born on 30 December 1959 in Huambo, Angola. At the age of seven his family moved to Windhoek, Namibia where he did his primary and secondary schooling at St Paul's College. This is where would meet long-time friend Gabi, whom he married later in life.
Tony's passion for photography was first inspired at age 16 after picking up a school friend's camera. In true artistic fashion, his first camera was bought with the money he made through playing music. He went on to pursue his passion for photography and writing by studying journalism at Rhodes University, from which he graduated in 1984. In an extract from a personal essay, Tony said: “From an early age, playing football for my country was always on my wish list for the future. As was to become a photographer, a drummer in a rock band and a scholar of English literature ... This wish was mainly to prove one of my childhood teachers wrong after she muttered that I would never master the English language.” Twenty eight years later, his daughter Gina would follow in his footsteps, studying fine arts at the same university.
The year 1989 saw Tony's first solo exhibition with Minha Terra at the National Art Gallery of Namibia. Minha Terra ('My Land') depicted Namibian landscapes and people, and travelled to the Grahamstown Arts Festival and the Cape Town National Art Gallery. Three years later, Tony and his first wife Michaela Clayton celebrated the birth of their daughter Gina in 1992. Gina would go on to collaborate with her father for her first ever exhibition at the age of 13 at the National Art Gallery of Namibia. In Tony's opening speech of the exhibition he said of Gina's talent for photography, “[i]t has been quite something watching Gina watching me… And boy, has she been watching me”, a testament to the loving and encouraging father that he was.
The exhibition, Minha Terra, was followed by Agua, Liberdade e Terra at Artelier Kendzia a year-and-a-half later, and outlined Namibia's struggle for freedom and the power water, freedom and land have on our finding our own freedom and sovereignty. For years Tony documented Swapo's internal struggle for liberation and created a photographic archive of a wide variety of activities, from trade union rallies to the return of Namibia's Founding President (Sam Nujoma) and South Africa's exit from the country.During most of 2004 Tony was involved in his passion project, the making of a documentary film by London-based Namibian filmmaker Richard Pakleppa, entitled Saudades de quem te ama ('From the one who loves you'), depicting a longing for Angola as one united and stable country.
In January 2009 Tony exhibited Luz Da Terra ('Earth Light') which has Namibia's grace, beauty and cultural diversity as the central theme and is set to travel to 23 countries within the next few years.Tony's overwhelming success in his career in photography is showcased by the series of awards and exhibitions which throughout the years have consistently depicted the beauty and intricacy of the human experience, the pre and post independence struggle for freedom and justice in Namibia and her neighbours, as well as the contrastingly beautiful Namibian landscape and wildlife. His exhibitions have travelled from Windhoek to Swakopmund, Grahamstown, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Lubango, Lisbon, Norway and Denmark.
Tony was well-known for Studio 77, a photographic studio started in 2004 initially with colleague and friend Hans Rack, before being run by himself and his wife Gabi until 2015 in Windhoek.Thereafter, Gabi and Tony relocated to Swakopmund and ran Studio 77 there. Studio 77 and Tony's contributions to the Namibian visual arts community will leave behind a legacy for this generation and many to come. He will always be remembered as a pillar of the arts community in Namibia, never hesitant to help a fellow artist and gracing all whom he worked with with his gentle, generous and creative soul.
Tony passed away peacefully in his home in Swakopmund on 12 April 2017 after a long-term battle against multiple myeloma. Tony was a man never to be defined by his illness and up until his last days he remained true to his extraordinary character; optimistic, full of life and humour, and radiating love.