By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Ominous indications are that the country’s only legally registered artists’ union as a government preferential partner is to join the ruling-party affiliated National Union of Namibian Workers. This became abundantly clear on Monday during the opening of a four-day workshop of the Oruuano Artists Union in the capital. As allies for such a turnabout in the arts and culture setup in the country, both the government and the NUNW were formally represented at the event at the Tabitha Center in Khomasdal. “Only a few technicalities have to be ironed out before the Oruuano Artists Union will be joining the NUNW,” said the national chairman of the union, Dominique Lunenge, who formally welcomed the Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, John Mutorwa, and the National Education Coordinator of the NUNW, Stalin Maherero, at the event. The implications of the union joining the NUNW, a proposal submitted at the union’s last congress at Tsumeb, can have far-reaching effects for the promotion of arts and culture in the country. “The Oruuano Artists Union is viewed and regarded by the Namibian government as a dependable partner, not only to advocate, but also to promote and actually implement our broad national arts and culture policies, programmes, projects and other related activities,” Minister John Mutorwa, who officially opened the workshop that is being attended by regional artists, said. Mutorwa emphasized unionism during his speech encouraging the union to recruit more and credible Namibian artists, something the body has miserably failed to do until now. The minister also once again implicitly intimated that the Oruuano Artists Union might one of these days be the only artist body that might be recognized by the government. Many de facto and respected Namibian artists have over the years looked skeptically at the Oruuano Artists Union as being a front for self-enrichment, own trumpet-blowing and a political tool in the hands of others. Echoing similar sentiments in encouraging the artists union to join the NUNW Maherero said: “As workers your rights need to be protected just like all other workers. Therefore, there is a need to create a legal framework to cover the sector and the existing ones must be strengthened.” At the same occasion Lunenge also announced that legislation is currently being prepared for an Artist Protection Bill is to be tabled in the National Assembly towards the end of this year. This announcement was not at all disputed by Minister Mutorwa whose ministry is responsible for the promotion of arts and culture in the country. “Artists like the Zimbabwean dance and traditional song group appearing here on the programme today might be here for the last time without any strings attached. Next year, once the Artists Protection Act becomes law, the situation will dramatically change for all foreign artists coming to work in Namibia,” union national chairman Lunenge professed. He specifically referred to foreign artists not paying taxes to the Namibian government. At the same occasion an agreement of cooperation between the Canadian Actors Union and Oruuano was formally signed by the president of Oruuano, Banana Shekupe, and a Canadian representative, Ken Burns.
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