Highs and Lows in the Arts in 2006

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK THE birth in Namibia of the daughter of the super screen couple Angelina Jolie and Bratt Pitt was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the art and culture scene this year. Their daughter, Novel Shilou, duly registered as a Namibian citizen, can eventually be of great importance for the local film industry, it is generally believed among local filmmakers. Other events of significance had been the establishment of the Namibia Arts Council that has taken off smoothly with the appointment of its first administrator in early November. The NAC has the unique potential to dramatically turn around for the best the still struggling Namibian art scene to the benefit of artists as well as the nation. Another important art development had been two international agreements signed between the Oruuano Artists Union and its Canadian counterpart with regard to assistance to develop relations and provide training opportunities to Namibian performing artists. An agreement between the same union and the Finnish academic arts fraternity to help promote art in Namibian schools is also to be welcomed. On the visual arts scene the opening of John Samson’s arts gallery was a fresh breeze for greater opportunities to Namibian visual artists perpetually struggling to find venues to display their works in sensible ways to the general public. The establishment and the subsequent first exhibition by a new representative visual arts body, V-AN, also brought greater interest in Namibian arts to the fore. The opening of the Rehoboth School of Arts Gallery as the first of its kind in rural Namibia was also a milestone achievement for local creativity. More exhibitions presented there will constantly keep the institution in the limelight to the benefit of the town’s people. Two film conferences, one initiated by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and another one by independent film company, Optimedia, shed some new light on the present status and future status of the struggling local film industry. Both events were well attended by local filmmakers, who need all the help and assistance they can get to help boost local productions. The National Extension Arts Programme of the College of the Arts also had its fair share of internal problems, ranging from the head of Department, Sharon Cagnetta, resigning from her post on suspicion of fraud and the perpetual problem of salary delays to the 70-odd part time tutors. On the music scene the annual NBC/Sanlam Music Awards has come and gone, not without some heavy criticism from the public as well as well-meaning music experts. The Bank Windhoek Festival also once again made an impact on the local arts scene. Proposals were made by artists that instead of a main festival the pre-festival concept needs to be implemented in 2007 to make the festival a better and more streamlined one. All in all 2006 was a fruitful and eventful year for arts and culture promotion in the country. The momentum needs to be carried forward in the new year.