Roffey Kleinschmidt is an artist amd a regular contributor to Artwolfe.
Whether their mission is creating platforms for exhibitions, theatre or fashion, bringing art to children or older folks, to our city centre or into people’s sitting-rooms in Katutura, the organisations featured here all work to give our local artists room to do and develop their work and reach their audiences.
Many of these tireless organisers are artists, theatre-makers and fashion pracititoners in their own right and are ideally positioned to contribute their knowledge and expertise to Namibia’s local arts industries. Although they are by no means alone in this landscape of arts activism (we only have 12 pages to fill here!) we thought that by bringing this small collection of movers and shakers together we could form some insights and draw some comparisons that will give us a sense of the broader picture.
Organisations such as Visual Artists Namibia and Arts Associations Heritage Trust have been in existence for a number of years. They have an extensive and representative membership, an established mandate and reputation. They could be described as an ‘old-guard’ negotiating a new age and they have demonstrated a crucial survival instinct in this regard – an ability to keep afloat, reinvent themselves, keep their heads down if necessary and very importantly – keep getting funding! From these stalwarts there is clearly much to learn. As Ndino Ndilula of the Namibian Theatre Initiative puts it, a new organisation is both a by-product of what already exists and an evolution in its own right.
This dynamic between the old and new, the established and the up-and-coming is constantly addressed in Namibia’s arts organisation, as they attempt to move forward and be relevant in our communities and society.
Nicky Marais’ comment that the deeply divided arts community of the past needs healing is especially pertinent and it is encouraging that manifestations of this idea are evident in the ethos and actions of all the organisations we interviewed. We have VA-N’s determintion to include anyone who identifies as an artist into their fold. We have the vision of Katutura Is…which aims to relocate art from its pedestal in the city centre to the peripheral township street from where it often emmerges. We have ChiNambia’s arts education programme that sets an example to schools everywhere and NTI’s search for theatre magic in every person whether they know it’s there yet or not.
Inclusive, ground-breaking approaches like these are not the norm in other aspects of our country, or in arts industries elsewhere and they are something that we as Namibians can be proud and hopeful of. Look out for ARTWOLFE coverage of what these organisations are up to in the coming year, because we are certain they will be up to all sorts of wonderous business, in an area near you.