Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 disease, arts and cultural events in Namibia, including visual arts exhibitions, music launches, musical, dance and theatrical performances, craft markets, as well as learning spaces, such as the College of the Arts came to an indefinite temporary standstill.
In response to this, the Directorate of Arts in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, announced with input received from its stakeholders, they are currently working on modalities and mechanisms to support the sector.
Deputy Director of Arts Promotion & Creative Industry Development, M’kariko Amagulu said, however, the first area of action is to get government’s leadership to recognise the Cultural and Creative Industries sector and for the Ministry of Finance to identify the sector, as a ‘hard hit’, and therefore consider businesses from the within the sector to also benefit from the Economic Stimulus and Relief Package.
Amagulu in an interview with Namib Insider! said the Ministry of Finance is also being encouraged to ensure that artists and cultural practitioners also receive grants as provided for under the Support to households of the Package, due to the loss of income and employment opportunities since most artists and crafters are self-employed and represent part of the informal sector.
“The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, together with its art institutions, is busy establishing mechanisms to provide support through grants to support individuals and non-profit arts organisations to enable artistic projects that mitigate Covid-19 and to offer a window of therapy and entertainment during this uncertain time.”
“This is in order to add the artists’ voice on Covid-19 through participation, engagement, and entertainment while supporting continued creativity and offering an opportunity for creatives to come up with other ways of disseminating their work and growing their audiences through different media platforms.”
Amagulu confirmed that the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture through its agencies like the National Art Gallery of Namibia, National Arts Council of Namibia and National Theatre of Namibia, have not cancelled workshops, performances, exhibitions, grants and bursaries.
“Commitments to those activities remain and they will be supported, although most of the activities, except bursaries, have been postponed to later dates,” Amagulu said.
Amagulu said the Directorate of Arts and its institutions are also currently interrogating other avenues and methods of carrying out activities and thus supporting artists, such as using broadcast and digital platforms to ensure on-going creativity and to continue serving the public.
While the National Arts Council of Namibia has already completed most due payments for this financial year, they will, however, assess the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on its bursary beneficiaries.
“Therefore, should it be found that the pandemic affected the academic year or progress of bursary beneficiaries, the National Arts Council of Namibia will approach the relevant institutions to agree on amicable terms to assist affected recipients, so they may continue with their studies,” Amagulu said.
In regard to the College of the Arts, Amagulu said they have been working tirelessly to ensure that learning continues by exploring different allowable teaching methods, such as remote learning through various applications and platforms, as well as ways of conducting practical classes in a safe manner. Once this is finalised it will be communicated to the relevant stakeholders.
In the meantime…
According to Amagulu, the Ministry is willing to discuss possible means and alternative methods to assist artists during this period. It is, however, also expected that artists should also interrogate and come up with innovative approaches for carrying out their work.
“Going forward, I think more of our artists will also have to begin thinking out of the box to grow and reach more audiences and therefore consumers of their products and services, using online platforms and not just rely on one source of funding, one market and minimal spaces for art practices and execution,” Amagulu said.
Amagulu said it is encouraging to see some artists are doing their bit to mitigate and support the fight against Covid-19 through their various disciplines, including those in fashion who are creating masks, musicians performing live online and comedians creating online content.
“Art is supposed to reflect the times, in this case, the current unpredictable time, through the various artistic disciplines, so as to engage and participate in advocating, educating and recording this moment,” Amagulu said.