Calls to Halt Abuse of Artists

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The signing of an agreement between the Canadian Actors Union and Oruuano Artists Union this week is a milestone achievement for the strengthening of creative ties between Canada and Namibia. This is the view of the local union’s Secretary-General, Vincent Mwemba, who spoke on the issue shortly before the formal signing took place. “During a visit to Canada last year our Canadian counterparts agreed to send a representative to Namibia to assist us in training in union affairs. This was a sequel to a decision taken in 2003 in Hungary that developed countries should assist countries such as ours in capacity building. Hence the presence today of Ken Burns, who will assist us in training the union’s staff in management, computer skills, collective bargaining and negotiating skill and benefits to union members,” said Mwemba. Ken Burns expressed his union’s desire to assist the Oruuano Union’s leadership cadre and its members. “All over the world artists have the right to a better living. In Canada actors are assured of their ability to earn a living wage, work reasonable hours, the provision of a safe work place, fair treatment and respect as a professional artist. Through an agreement Canadian actors also receive retirement and insurance benefits. All theatres in Canada operate like this,” Burns informed the capacity-building workshop participants. According to Burns, Namibian artists deserve the same respect as their Canadian counterparts. “This includes guarantees of minimum standards. We look forward to the day the National Theatre of Namibia and independent Namibian producers will sign a similar agreement with Oruuano, which we are happy to assist in pursuing for the basic rights of artists,” the visitor, who will also visit regional branches of the local union, said. In a very encouraging tone about the development of arts and culture in the country, Stalin Maherero, National Coordinator of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), paid tribute to the local artists for strengthening the cultural roots of the Namibian society. “What you as artists produce is not just something one can do overnight, but you spend time and days to create something that will meet the needs of your customers. However, little appreciation is given to you as artists and your field endures abuse of the highest order. Yet, the work you do seem not to add value to those who sacrifice their time and energy,” the young NUMW representative said. Maharero also warned exploiters and abusers of artists in the country. “We must discourage these tendencies. They take the bread away from artists. I wish to challenge the Oruuano Artists Union to deal with those culprits. The union must fight for the rights of artists and their livelihoods. Furthermore, the survival of artists depend on what they produce and through which means they support their families. I therefore encourage the public, the government and international partners to support and promote the work of Namibian artists,” Maharero concluded. Namibian actor and playwright, Lucky Pieters, delivered a passionate plea for understanding and appreciation of actors and their trade during the opening ceremony of the workshop. “Namibian actors play a very important part and role in educating the nation and should be respected as such. Actors help the government to educationally reach out to communities wherever they may find themselves, reflecting the realities of life on stage. Furthermore, the notion and myth that Namibian theatre is purely entertainment needs to be rectified. When I act in a play on stage, I teach and educate our people,” Pieters said sentimentally to great applause from those present at the workshop.

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