International Art Workshop Revived


By Andre du Pisani WINDHOEK The recent announcement that the formative Tulipamwe International Artists’ Workshop that ran for eleven years and that spawned many new artists and deepened the creative powers of more established artists, would be revived and given a new focus was indeed one of the happiest of this extraordinary year. Tulipamwe was, and is, a marvellous work of the imagination. As such, it continues to inspire (here one is reminded of the words of that great visionary, William Blake, who saw inspiration and vision [as] “my element, my eternal dwelling place”). Thus it is appropriate to acknowledge the imagination, the vision and the passion of all those who were involved in the genesis and life of Tulipamwe. While some scholars such as Donald Kuspit in his most recent offering provocatively titled ‘The End of Art’ argues that art is over because it has lost its aesthetic import. Moreover, art has been replaced by “postart,” a term coined by Alan Kaprow, as a new visual category that elevates the banal over the enigmatic, the scatological over the sacred, cleverness over creativity. While the scholarship of Kuspit and those who came before him make for interesting reading, it is unlikely that the notion will soon die that art can deepen the sympathetic imagination, or as the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) so brilliantly argued, art is an aesthetic experience that occurs both as a subjective cessation of willing (the intellect is an instrument of the will, and is not ‘designed’ for purposeless imaginative work which grasps and relays eternal ideas) and an objective insight into the realm of ideas. The value of a particular object of aesthetic experience can reside in one or other of these factors. Schopenhauer also deserves credit for realizing that the arts are regarded both as a release from the pressures of living, and as key in constructing a life, for the arts are linked to ideas. Ideas in art form a hierarchy. The lowest are the all-pervading natural forces, the highest idea of humanity. Time does not permit to explore Schopenhauer’s ideas on art and music – that took their impetus from Kant – any further. The latter, his theory on the power of music is especially striking, if it is not ultimately convincing – but rather to celebrate the revival and in a particular sense, the “refurbishment” of Tulipamwe with its new focus: community building and empowerment through training and the sharing of skills, as well as the celebration of local culture(s). Originally inspired by the Triangle Workshop Model, Tulipamwe was spawned in 1994 under the visionary leadership of the Visual Arts Department of the University of Namibia. The Department ran it with energy and passion until 1999. Thereafter,until 2004 Tulipamwe was independently managed, only to return to its original home in 2005. After a year of deliberative planning and creative reflection, a new vision gelled. This vision still provides for an annual international artists’ workshop – central to the original concept, but has been enlarged to provide for community empowerment, on a decentralized model. It is envisioned that through this vision community-based project development and management would meaningfully emancipate and empower local rural and urban communities. The artists who have participated in Tulipawme over a period of 11 years, have nurtured their creativity and deepened their humanity in magical places such as Otjiruze Game Lodge, and the Zebra River Lodge to paraphrase one of the coordinators, “artworks of exceptional quality have been produced”. The original vision has not faded yet. It awaits a logical enlargement to encompass needy communities, a sharper focus on art appreciation and visual literacy more generally and a celebration of local traditions and cultures. In this way, the ‘new’ Tulipamwe has the innate potential to do community building and to empower in ways and at a level where politicians rarely venture. If successful, Tulipawme in its new iteration holds much promise for intercultural exchange and for harnessing the income generating potential of visual arts. entropy. Members of Tulipawme’s New Working Group (NWG) deserve wide support and encouragement, also from the University of Namibia (UNAM) for it is inconceivable that a university could be unfriendly towards the arts, and should focus their efforts around a common vision, that in itself, is a form of humanitarian response to a human need. Provided that Tulipamwe does not fall prey to the disease, so rampant in many institutions, to personalize everything, it will be worth shouting about! Finally, allow me to return to Kantian Ethics (and indirectly to Schopenhauer). Kant’se thics emphasizes the importance of motives, of acting on principle and of adhering to general rules of conduct. People should be seen as ends and not as means. Kantian ethics is based on the moral idea that what leads to an action – its motives – is as important as what follows it – its consequences. Kant’s categorical imperative says (i) act according to rules everyone could follow all the time, (ii) never treat people as means to an end, and (iii) the ultimate good motive is the desire to act morally. – Andre du Pisani teaches politics and philosophy at the University of Namibia and was the keynote speaker at the relaunch of Tulipamwe last Friday.