Visual Artists Forge Ahead

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK A strong call and appeal was made for the de-politicisation of Namibian visual arts for harmony and progress last Friday evening during the long awaited inauguration meeting of a new and more representative arts body in the country. Some 70 local established, new and student artists attended the first AGM of the body known as the Visual Artists-Namibia at the National Arts Gallery of Namibia. “There had been an urgent need for visual artists to be specifically represented by a formal body besides the Arts Association of Namibia (AAN), a body that apparently promotes all arts disciplines. VA-N and AAN will co-exist in harmony with each other because we intend to work together with all other arts bodies in the country,” interim chairman, Helge Denker told the meeting in an overview on how the new body had its origin. It is general knowledge that the AAN had in the past not really represented the true hopes, dreams and aspirations of especially black visual artists. “If we are to move seriously forward on the visual arts front, it would be imperative that it (Namibian arts) becomes de-politicized so that we the artists and VA-N can take decisions on art and art alone,” said artist John Sampson by way of a contribution from the audience in a rather impatient tone of voice. In the audience were noticed some die-hard members of the Arts Association of Namibia. According to Denker, VA-N will be a truly independent body that will represent the rights and aspirations of all Namibian visual artists nationally as well as internationally. “We welcome all people considering themselves visual artists and we will operate as a non-profit and member organization to help protect the rights of all visual artists in the country. In this we do not want to duplicate things, but complement existing bodies in the field based on a formal constitution,” Denker said. A representative of UNESCO commended the establishment of the new Namibian body as part of its own efforts to promote creativity and peace around the world. “Initiatives such as VA-N not only combine the very persuasive voice of artists, but also show that within a creative diversity, cohesion can exist and therefore various stakeholders are able to negotiate and reach consensus on various points. People might have different views and opinions, but we have the same basic needs that unite us,” said Alcina Ndjavera, a research programme assistant for culture at UNESCO. She informed the inauguration meeting that her organisation last year initiated a visual arts survey into the needs, rights and support systems for visual artists in Namibia. “The survey focuses on the living conditions, current means of survival within the National Cultural Policy and legal framework of Namibia. The recommendations on a comprehensive and functional support system will ultimately serve as a framework for the development of and support to VA-N,” said Ndjavera, who also urged members of the new organisation to become motivating agents for the youth. “At a time when family and social structures are changing, often with adverse effects on children and adolescents, the school of the twenty-first century must be able to anticipate new needs by according a special place to the teaching of artistic values and subjects in order to encourage creativity, a distinctive attribute of the human species. Creativity is our hope,” she said moralistically. In her opinion, art teaching should stimulate the body as well as the mind of learners. “A more balanced kind of education is now needed. Play activity as a vital form of creativity is one of the factors that deserve to be encouraged in the teaching of arts. Such activities also develop an individual’s creative faculty and direct their aggressiveness towards the symbolic objects of their choice,” she said. Ndjavera also announced that an anti-piracy training workshop that will bring together experts in the field of copyright and copyright law enforcement in Namibia would be held in the country later this year. She also encouraged local artists to apply for bursaries at UNESCO for further studies in the arts field. Membership fees of VA-N will be a modest N$60 per year for established artists; pensioner/student fees will be N$40; partner organisation fees N$100 and corporate membership N$1 000 and more. “The National Arts Gallery of Namibia welcomes the establishment of VA-N as a body initiated for artists by artists to put themselves on a path of self determination and independence for a better future,” said the director of the National Gallery of Namibia, Joseph Madisia, in welcoming those present at the widely advertised meeting.