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Does Namibia need an artists’ union?

2021-08-30  Paheja Siririka

Does Namibia need an artists’ union?

Paheja Siririka

Namibia has numerous unions representing the plight of workers, but there is no union in the arts industry while there have been major issues, including the exploitation of artists. Off The Record host Shona Ngava said most Namibian artists are being exploited, and there is a need for an artists’ union to address and protect the interests of artists in Namibia, whether it’s in the music, fashion, film or visual art industry.

“Most of these artists are being exploited, and there isn’t the know-how or a proper procedure on how things should work in the industry. I thus feel formalised standard operations should be established,” stated the radio personality and artist manager.

Off The Record is an entertainment talk show that aims to inform and educate its viewers on what is happening in Namibian show business, and touches on topics that mainstream media avoids. The podcast is hosted by Ngava, music label executive Vernon van Wyk and entertainment journalist Michael Kayunde.

Kayunde said with the way music is set up in Namibia, a union would be important, but it wouldn’t serve its intended purpose.

“I don’t think they will be able to stand up for the artists. Knowing how Namibians are and how corrupt we are, I don’t think setting up a union is going to help the artists. If it does happen, businesses will benefit from that. However, I don’t think the industry will pull it off the right way at this point in the Namibian space,” he commented.

Van Wyk supports the idea of establishing a union, and called on those serving in unions to come up with great proposals and submit such to the government.

“The arts industry is the only one that doesn’t have a union. I know sports and other industries have unions. People from the arts industry who know more can be in these unions, and encourage the government to invest more in arts,” stated Van Wyk.

With the division of players in the arts industry, the trio said for the union to be fully operational, beneficial and fruitful, there is a need for a collaborative effort from everyone.

Meanwhile, the Namibian Society of Composers and Authors of Music (Nascam) is in the process of forming an artists task force.

Nascam head John Max told VIBEZ! that the organisation intends setting up a task force that will be addressing the plight of musicians and seek advice from artists, composers and authors as far as challenges of being in the industry are concerned.

To take off some of the load from Nascam, the board decided to assist in the formulation of the task force. However, Ngava said the approach by Nascam won’t work because the people who are part of the problem will be serving on that task force.

“Go to the media and experts in the industry; don’t necessarily seek advice from artists, composers and authors. If I am an artist serving on the force, I will be looking after my interests and I won’t necessarily care with what other people say,” Ngava opined.

2021-08-30  Paheja Siririka

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