A quote has been doing the rounds on social media reminding people of how the arts became a place of refuge for many during the first difficult period of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Readers found solace in their favourite books, drawings and paintings were made to thank health staff for their help in difficult times, music collaborations were done via Zoom, families performed plays in their living rooms to stave off boredom and in some places, lone violinists would comfort their neighbours with haunting notes from their balconies.
While the arts have always fed the soul, during the pandemic we have all realised just how important it is as a form of expression and comfort, and in helping us process our experiences.
It not only fosters creativity, innovation, and cultural diversity for people around the world but also plays an important role in knowledge sharing, curiosity, and dialogue.
Friday is World Art Day, a celebration to promote the development, diffusion, and enjoyment of art.
M’kariko Amagulu, Director of Arts in the Ministry of Education Arts and Culture, told Nampa on Monday art in Namibia is the result of any condition that encourages creativity and innovation, to grow and provide spiritual, mental, and/or material benefit to an individual, a community, a country, and the world at large.
“The pandemic has taught us that the arts are what get us through anything, in this case, a period of uncertainty. As a coping mechanism, more people created, consumed, and participated in arts during lockdowns. From their temporary prisons, people watched more movies, listened to more music, sang songs across terraces and computers, read books, danced and painted, and shared their talents online,” she said.
Amagulu added that the experience was a reminder that society has become so accustomed to having art around them that there is a tendency to take it for granted.
“It took the pandemic for us realise that we cannot live without it… We use art in the design of everything from buildings to clothing to a cup; we listen to music in malls, on our cell phones while out doing activities; and we sing and dance both during celebrations and during more solemn occasions. It alleviates stress, improves mental health, and uplifts our spirits. I believe the pandemic has increased its importance and the need for additional assistance,” she continued.
Amagulu further stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant ramifications for the arts and culture sector.
Gatherings were immediately halted when the pandemic struck, resulting in many artists losing opportunities to share their talents and earn income, as many of them rely on gatherings to display creative expressions and manifestations, as well as to make a living.
“Thus, the Government provided a small project-based relief fund for the sector through the line ministry, which was coordinated and implemented by the National Arts Council of Namibia to provide one-time support to individual artists, cultural practitioners, and arts and culture organisations for three months in 2020. This was done to encourage continued creativity, artistry, and practice, as well as to provide opportunities to share and promote artwork through online platforms,” she stated.
As restrictions have slowly started to ease and bigger gatherings were allowed, artists once again got to share their creations with the world. Now, as it appears cases are on the increase again, we hope these freedoms are not jeopardised once again. But should we ever find ourselves having to hunker down at home again, let us remember the music, paintings, literature, and other arts that make the lows in life bearable.
Locally, we have our own share of artists who have caught the attention. Besides our shortlist of artists, why not ask around and see who else you can add?
Ndasuunye Shikongeni – visual artist (printmaking), art lecturer
Tuli Mekondjo – visual artist
Chantell Diolini /Uiras – singer/musician
Nikhita Winkler – dancer
Nashilongweshipwe Muushandja – performing artist/singer/musician
Rudolf Seibeb – visual artists (painter/mixed media)
Deon Matheus – fashion designer
Shafa Sheehama – visual artist (mixed media), art lecturer COTA
Michelle Isaak – visual artist (mixed media)
Lize Ehlers – singer/arts manager coordinator