By Frederick Philander REHOBOTH The first fully-fledged rural visual arts gallery was on Wednesday opened at the southern town of Rehoboth. The gallery was officially opened by the Deputy minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, Pohamba Shifeta. “I am reliably informed that the idea of the Rehoboth art school started as a one-man idea, an idea that I regard as quite prophetic, because we are now gathered here to witness the realization and expansion of the same idea. I am delighted that we are witnessing a historical event in a historical building for a historical future,” Shifeta said in a short opening speech. He also encouraged the town’s people, of whom a few attended, as well as the surrounding villages to support the new gallery as well as the art school. “I believe the institution is now better equipped to help educate school learners on arts related aspects of education; teach out of school youth arts as a vocational subject; serve as host for art exhibitions and assist local schools with art research and art competitions,” Shifeta, who later in the programme unveiled a plague and received a gift from the Rehoboth School of Art, the brainchild of artist Andrew van Wyk, said. According to Van Wyk, the establishment of the gallery at Rehoboth had been a lifelong dream for him. “I have always wanted to do something substantial for this town. That’s why I returned here to set up a school of arts for the benefit of the community. Of course it was not all moonshine and roses setting up the Rehoboth School of Arts. A lot of preparatory work had to be done to acquire a suitable venue and funding to set it up,” artist Andrew van Wyk said. He single-handedly and systematically went about his business in fulfilling his dream. “The first breakthrough was the procurement of this old building, the house in which the town’s historic leader, Hermanus van Wyk stayed. In 1998 after having had to remove a mountain of problems, the art school was officially inaugurated, a real milestone for the town. To keep it running I contacted many institutions and local artists for financial and logistical support to make the venture a viable one. Today the institution is growing in leaps and bounds,” he said proudly and encouraged Namibian artists to cooperate more closely. The ambassador of France, Phillippe de la Bathie, also congratulated the Rehoboth School of Arts for having set up the gallery. “Artist Andrew van Wyk is one of those who have maintained contact with the French embassy for a long time for assistance in whatever form in realizing the establishment of the gallery as a reality. The gallery is a perfect example of successful Franco-Namibian cooperation. Thanks to the school of art and the gallery, dozens of local children can now learn music and painting,” ambassador De la Bathie said. The French government contributed an amount of N$30 000 towards the gallery project at Rehoboth. “It is my understanding that not only students’ and works of teachers will be displayed in the gallery, but those from the informal arts sector as well,” he urged. De la Bathie also announced that the Franco-Namibian Cultural Center has contributed an amount of N$40 000 for the purchase of musical instruments for music education in rural towns such as Gibeon, Mariental, Maltahohe and Bethanien. The director of Arts Programmes in the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, Retha-Louis Hofmeyr, in her speech was adamant that the Rehoboth School of Arts seeks closer cooperation with the local authority as well as the community. “Despite the fact that my department could not always financially assist Andrew van Wyk in all his endeavours to put up the school of arts, I at least encouraged him to forge ahead with the idea. We sometimes even clashed because of differences in opinion, but today the institution as well as the gallery are in place,” Hofmeyr said. According to her, the line ministry is financing the Rehoboth School of Art and its activities to the tune of N$400 000 per year as a satellite body of the College of the Arts. “Education in the country is currently under attack. In my opinion arts should be brought into closer contact with formal education if the educational problems are to be resolved. However, criticism needs to be absorbed in a good spirit, even the artists in this country need to be critical, which they do well,” she said. Hofmeyr also made a serious plea to her deputy minister for more funding to her department for art activities. “Things are not all ‘honkie-doray’ financially. We are on the brink of collapse without enough funding available. We are financially suffering in view of the fact that we are facing a budget cut of 10 percent. We have to cater for about 4 000 students on the National Extension Programme alone,” she complained. Two lecturers at the Rehoboth School of Art provided top class music at the official opening of the gallery. In thanking the sponsors and invited guests a local principal, Dawid Narib of Oanob Primary School, expressed the town folks’ gratitude for the addition of the arts gallery to the Rehoboth School of Arts. “We are very fortunate and privileged to have a gallery envisioned to display works of national and international importance in our town. Plainly speaking, the gallery is a landmark achievement for arts advancement,” Narib said also thanking artist Andrew van Wyk for his strong artistic leadership and perseverance. The grand opening exhibition, displaying works of some of the best known artists in the country, will run at the Rehoboth School of Arts until the end of March. Artists whose works are currently on display are: Nicky Marais, Ndasunje Sikongeni, Joseph Madisia, Alpheus Mvula, Pierre van der Westuizen and Rehoboth artists Andrew van Wyk, Rola Janurie Teddy Drier, Kallie Karugub and Ronnie Bock.
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