Bank Festival Faces Possible Format Change

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Judging from strong artist support, the Bank Windhoek Festival is in future to undergo a revolutionary formof change to the benefit of arts and culture development in the country. This became clear on Wednesday during a feedback review meeting between the organizers of the Bank Windhoek Festival and invited artists of which only a handful attended the gathering in the foyer of Bank Windhoek. A strong plea was made to the organizers to do away with the present main festival as a technically unworkable event, due to the fact that the Bank Windhoek Festival inter alia clashes with the annual //Ae//Gams Festival in September. “The ideal alternative to the main festival – only benefiting certain artists – would be to replace it in toto and rather focus on the so-called pre-festival throughout the year,” playwright Vickson Hangula told the meeting in support of a suggestion made by the artistic director of Committed Artists of Namibia. Hangula, who staged a work during the main festival with catastrophic audience attendances like so many other participating groups, saw more advantages and benefits within the pre-festival format running for twelve months. “There will be less stress and pressure on the artists, the audiences as well as the festival organizers in running the show, taking into account that the arts and culture fraternity is small and interest in the festival by the general public is limited to only a few hundred people at a time. This year there were too many events taking place at the same time, something the audiences could not match due to a lack of money and other factors,” said Hangula. A strong plea was also made to keep the festival a commercial venture because of the fact that many Namibian artists earn their livelihood through it. “Many of the venues which were used during the recently held festival were either unknown or physically obscurely located. Many patrons did not know where they were situated, let alone the long distances for our theatre followers living far on the western outskirts of the capital,” Vickson motivated his complaint. The convener of the meeting, Jerry Elago, was full of praise for what Bank Windhoek has been achieving with the festival over the past four years since its inception. “It has been – and will be – the bank’s responsibility to promote the festival as a whole, but it remains the respective artists’ responsibilities to market themselves and the creative products during the festival, be it the pre- or the main festival,” re-emphasized Elago, who thanked the participating artists in all disciplines for having taken part in the festival. Vickson Hangula also suggested that, instead of only one commissioned work for the main festival, at least four works should be considered for the next pre-festival. “This would ensure artists being offered fairer opportunities to show their prowess as writers, actors and directors or, for that matter, any other art discipline, unlike what the case was with the commissioned play, The Lion’s Roar,” the first Golden Pen Theatre Writing winner said. Music promoter and artist, Rea, was of the opinion that artists need to be appointed on the organizing committee to ensure that the true aspirations of creative persons are properly served, unlike what was the case during the last festival. The organizers must involve the artists by being employed for the duration of the festival, be it the main festival or the pre-festival. It is imperative that artists benefit to the maximum,” Rea said. With regard to legitimate critique against the chief festival organizer, Aldo Behrens, Head of Marketing of Bank Windhoek, Marlize Horn vehemently defended her Art Foundation’s decision to appoint Behrens in his present position. The board of the Foundation consists of Nico Bessinger (chairperson), Mathew Gowaseb, Ervast Mtota, Mathew Shokongo and Retha-Louis Hofmeyr. “The Namibian artists are not very happy at having to share on a 50-50 basis the income generated from shows or productions staged during the festival. A better system needs to be designed because many of the artists earn their living from their art and creativity,” said Ernst Herma, the owner of the Warehouse Theatre. Vickson Hangula also rejected a discussion point on the quality of productions entered in the festival. “We have to be very careful with such provocative statements because what may be considered by white audiences as classical in content and format, may not necessarily be high quality for black audiences,” he asserted. Jerry Elago indicated that all the suggestions and proposals from artists at the meeting will be submitted to the Foundation board for serious implementation consideration.