By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK By her own admission, government funding for arts and culture development in the country has thus far been insufficient, presumably in light of more pressing issues such as HIV/AIDS, education and training sector financial needs. This is the view of the Deputy Prime Minister, dr Libertina Amathila, who yesterday spoke at the official inauguration of the refurbished art gallery at the Visual Arts Department at the University of Namibia. At the same occasion the Managing Director of Standard Bank, Theo Mberirua, announced that his commercial bank will be spending some N$600 000 in the country’s education. “We are all keenly aware that 16 years after independence Namibia’s social development needs are still huge. One such area is financial support for arts and culture. Namibia is not alone in this and it is sadly the case that funding for art and culture is becoming increasingly problematic throughout the world as arts and culture is viewed as a luxury and not a necessity,” Amathila said. She further argued that without private sector financial support many cultural programmes, art galleries and theatres would not be able to survive. “Namibia has a momentous struggle to create ample job opportunities. However, the promotion of art is possibly one way of keeping young people occupied and away from the streets where evils such as drugs, alcohol and crime prevail. The promotion of arts and culture would definitely also spur the existent and sometimes underutilized artistic talents, thereby creating a huge opportunity for youth in the entertainment and art market across the globe,” she said. She considers visual art exhibitions as another valuable way and a platform to exhibit creative works and ultimate sales of such works through which artists can support their families. “I think this is an area that should also be more regularly explored. Standard Bank has consistently supported arts and culture locally, not only visual arts, but other spheres such as education. In this the bank remains at the forefront of support to as far away schools as Okaepe and Donkerbos, assisting San learners, who are terribly disadvantaged and for that I am particularly grateful,” said Amathila, who is also the patron of the bank’s foundation trust. Mberirua assured Unam of his institution’s continued financial support in handing bursaries to 15 arts students yesterday. “Education is the biggest recipient of funds from our social investment cake and this year alone we will spend about N$600 000 on educational initiatives in various forms such as bursaries, vocational training, books for deaf people, literacy programmes and school books to help educate the Namibian nation,” Mberirua said. The Vice Chancellor of Unam, professor Lazarus Hangula welcomed and thanked both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Standard Bank MD for their continued support of his institution of higher learning.