Qualified Artist Lucky to Get a Labourer’s Job

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By William Mbangula OGONGO Unemployment has become a problem for many newly-graduated youth in Namibia. Imagine being qualified but you end up in the street or, if you are lucky, you may find yourself employed as an ordinary, unskilled labourer. Some people are blaming the government for not creating conditions for employment opportunities for the youth, while others criticize the financial institutions for their lack of goodwill to assist newly-graduated students to start self-supporting projects. Whatever the reasons for the complaints and suffering of the youth who have completed about three to four years tertiary training, unemployment remains their biggest problem. One such youth, a case regarded as the tip of the iceberg, is Robert Max Hidishange. He is currently working as a labourer at the Ogongo College of Agriculture as a way to make a living despite being qualified as an Applied Artist in Visual Product Development from the Namibia College of the Arts. Said Hidishange: “Out of desperation I decided to accept any employment as long as I am able to make a living, hence I’ve ended up being a labourer here. Some people are telling me I should consider myself lucky for at least having managed to get a job. There are others, I am told, who could not get a job even for doing cleaning work.” According to Hidishange, his duties, among others, include washing dishes in the kitchen, replacing bulbs, servicing blocked pipes and many other general tasks at the centre. In his training as an artist, he was told to produce results, but for him washing dishes does not make him result-driven. Although he does not want to criticize his current working environment as the cause of his unfortunate situation, since he knew before being recruited what awaited him as a labourer, he insists that the government and the private sector should create favourable opportunities to enable him and others to market their products. He had been hoping to get employment at one of the big publishing companies as an illustrating expert on the books being published, but this did not materialize. As far as he could recall, there is no craft centre in the North where artists can take their products for marketing, but such facilities abound in Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and other major town centres. One of Hidishange’s long-term objectives as part of his pursuance of his profession is concerned, is to one day establish a craft centre in the North. Such a centre would fulfil his dreams and serve as a selling point for others and also provide training for potential artists. At the envisaged centre, he would like to see all artists’works, including traditional pots and baskets, being marketed vigorously. But before that, he would like to pursue his artistic studies up to Masters degree level. Then he feels he can start working and helping others. But one of his major constraints, apart from failing to get employment in his field of study, is having to struggle to get sponsorships for further studies. Described in one of his testimonials from Namibia College of Arts as a person who has shown continuous tenacity and perseverance during his three years of study, Hidishange is said to be a person who is always ready for challenges and has splendid innovative abilities backed by outstanding observation skills. With painting, drawing, object-making and jewellery-making as the main subjects, it is said that he is also skilful in illustrations and design, through which he can achieve many artistic assignments. Born 24 years ago at Elombe village in Onayena Constituency, Hidishange, who claims to have been interested in artistic work since childhood, went to school at Elombe Primary School, Oshela Secondary School, and Nehale Secondary School where he completed Grade 12 in 2002. Some of his artistic works, he claims, could be seen at various places in the country, like the emblem at Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School in Windhoek, Onamutene Primary School, as well as on many tourist buses and in shops.