Art Promotion Stifled

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Due to apparent government budgetary constraints, the Namibia National Arts Gallery is presently struggling to secure sponsorship to send a visual artist to an international exhibition to be held next month in Asia. This became known during an Art/Life interview with the director of the NNAG, artist Joseph Madisia, who did not mince words in criticising the Arts Department in the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, for allegedly frustrating efforts to promote and market Namibian arts globally. “After receiving a formal invitation from the organisers of the 12th Asian Art Biennale in Bangledesh, I approached the director of the Arts Department for urgent financial assistance to send a local visual artist to represent the country for the first time at the event The immediate response was that ‘the budget was cut by 10 percent’, the usual excuse from that quarter. What a shame. Visual arts has once again been given a severe blow,” a very frustrated Madisia said. The NAGN Act No 14 of 2000 specifically states that the state-run gallery promote the exchange of ideas in art on an international level and participation in international exhibitions. “Namibian arts, which is supposed to heal and strengthen the souls and human fabric of our society, has yet received another severe blow because of this situation. No wonder our country faces so many social problems. Art is supposed to challenge our social morals and ethics. Unfortunately, arts is not taken seriously by those in decision-making positions and they don’t really care about the arts. Through their actions artists in this country will remain perpetual beggars,” Madisia claimed angrily. The formal invitation to the Namibia National Arts Gallery from the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy caters for three Namibian visual artists to attend the event on March 05 in the city of Dhaka. Madisia went on to compare government preferential funding of visual arts to that of sports and the performing arts. “Especially the silent visual art on our walls and offices and boardrooms don’t stand a chance that theatrical performances have. Unfortunately sports and other issues are still being considered far more important than Namibian arts,” said the director, who told Art/Life that his institution gets an annual budget of N$1,7 million, which does not cater for any international marketing and promotion of Namibian visual arts. During the 12th Biennale there will be a seminar for which “Gender Perspective in Asian Art” has been selected as the topic. “It is expected that discussion of gender perspectives in art will shed light both on biological aspects and the socio-political dimensions of gender as reflected in Asian art. Through an overview of the past and review of the present it would be sought to capture the respective roles and relation between men and women with their implications for art in Asia. Interaction between traditional concepts and practices in these respects and the modern influences will be an important area of analysis,” the organisers stated in the formal invitation to the Namibia National Arts Gallery.