An Overview of Art and Culture Events

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK UNDOUBTEDLY the making of the Sam Nujoma film, Where Others Wavered, was the biggest and greatest artistic event of 2005, despite the many problems the production initially experienced. Most problems were logistic by nature, exacerbated by ignorance on the part of officialdom in making available at the right and specific times, causing endless uncertainty and anxiety on set among the large crew and cast. A number of film workers apparently were forced to legal actions and steps against the producers to get their hands on legitimate delayed salaries. Others with legal agreements never received any agreed payments to proceed with their jobs. Many technical staff complained about this sort of treatment, which has done tremendous damage of the local film industry on an international level. A lot of reparations will have to be done to amend and rescue this situation. However, the film was finally completed in September. Post-production is at present being done in the United States and it is expected the film will be released in March next year. One thing that is certain is the fact that a few Namibian actors compared very well with the likes of Danny Glover and Carl Lumbly in some of the main roles. A new world of international acting is predicted to open for artists Chrisjan Appolus, Theresa Kahangora and Obed Emvula. Ironically and sadly reverend/actor Leon Husselman was temporarily suspended from performing any religious rites by the Uniting Reformed Church at Rehoboth. He was later reinstated in his job after the injustice came to light through this newspaper. Furthermore it is an open question whether the Namibian government will be able to recoup the N$65 million it invested in the film project. A film, Lumumba, which was purportedly made with a US $320-million budget, could only manage to accrue US$4 million at the box-office. * In March we welcomed and celebrated the appointment of the very first full-time black director of the Art Gallery of Namibia 15 years after Independence. Namibian internationally renowned artist, Joseph Madisia, ceremoniously took over the reigns of power from Annaleen Eins, who had been the director for ages. This appointment, local artists interpreted as the first concrete move by the government to really Namibianise visual arts in this country. Naturally the sceptics from expected quarters did not readily accept Madisia’s appointment. He had been heavily lambasted in efforts inasmuch as his abilities had been constantly made suspect just to prove he is incompetent in running the government facility. He did not give in and is continuing with innovative changes in the interest of Namibian arts and culture. The promulgation of the Namibia Arts Bill in April was an eventual milestone achievement for the country’s art and culture. Other African countries have had Art Councils for years. Most of these councils are being run by artists of those countries because of trust between the arts fraternities and their respective governments. In Namibia certain elements continue to make local artists suspect with their government because of hidden agendas. Anyway, with the new Arts Council now in place, expectations are rising for the speedy practical implementation of criteria for financial consideration early next year. The new council is expected to have its operations operative before the additional budget is tabled in the National Assembly by April 2006. * A worrying case, exposed by this newspaper, was the one of theft or unauthorized use of one of visual artist Augestinus Madi’s pencil drawings by NBC television. Madi is presently in the process of having the national broadcaster legally persecuted and will sue it for only N$160 000 in damages. It remains to be seen whether the cash-strapped NBC will oppose any such claim or opt for an out of court settlement. Time will tell. Art/Life finds it rather strange that the copyright watchdog, Nascam, did not respond publicly to the theft of Madi’s creative work. Is it a case of sleeping under the same blanket with the NBC – why it didn’t take up the matter on behalf of the aggrieved artist? It’s general knowledge that Nascam earns the bulk of its income from NBC by way of the music rights of its members. The case is a test one for copyright theft of all art forms, not only visual arts, including music. It would have benefited the whole Namibian arts and culture setup, had Nascam’s John Max been broadminded enough to have included visual arts and any other art expressions in the workshop to identify pirating and copyright theft with the Namibian Police in September this year. Similarly the Oruuano Artists Union, claiming to protect the rights of all Namibian artists, should have taken on the NBC for its rogue actions of illegally using the creative work of a struggling artist in distress. Come on guys, artists expect of you to be more progressive in your approach in protecting artists or are you kept hostage or are you merely delivering lip service to artists and those claiming to be artists when its suits you? * A new play anthology, hailed and applauded as a literature milestone for Namibian and African theatre by two international theatre experts from South Africa and Finland, also saw the light of day in October. * On the music front, Willie Mbuende’s band Sidadi and female singers Snazzy and Stella did the country proud. Willie’s band SIDADI successfully exported Namibian music to neighbouring Botswana and South Africa. Snazzy and Stella represented the country by being nominated in two categories at the Kora Awards at the Absa stadium in Durban. Though they didn’t win, their nominations remain a musical achievement of note. * The annual Youth Theatre Festival in June yielded a rather low turnout of self-written plays. An existing South African play, My Children. My Africa, swept the boards, followed by Living Hell, a play scheduled to be performed at the Bravo Theatre Festival in Finland in March next year. *Assitej-Namibia has taken the lead in the development of theatre to children and young people with its six months rural theatre development expansion programme in six Namibian towns during 2005. The Finish embassy had been financially instrumental in starting the programme, expected to continue in six Southern towns in 2006. The town-based centres form part of the national youth theatre plan the organization is busy putting in place. * The /Ae //Gams cultural festival was once again staged in September and officially opened by the Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, John Mutorwa. The annual traditional national dance festival was also staged at the town of Khorixas earlier this month. * Two important international events also took place in the capital: the Oruuano Artists Union signed a long-term agreement with the Finnish Music Union in October under the auspices of the Finnish embassy; an international theatre writing workshop on AIDS related issues was presented by Assitej-Namibia. Twenty new and established playwrights from Sweden, Finland, Namibia and eight other African countries attended the workshop that was made financially possible by SIDA and the Finnish embassy in Windhoek. Oruuano Artists Union also last week presented a very important teacher training workshop in arts education in Namibian schools at Okahandja. This initiative should be wildly welcomed, taking into account that Namibian learners have been denied proper arts education since the dawn of Independence in 1990.