I am writing to you from my position as an independent artist-writer/poet, and a member of the National Arts Council of Namibia (NACN). I sincerely welcome the Covid-19 Relief Fund that you are currently putting together for the lucky artists/the incredible circle of friends who will get it during this coronavirus crisis. But, I am not excited.
Based on numerous experiences and dealings with the NACN, we anticipate this great initiative to eventually waff off into the thick air of the well-managed corruption out there before it benefits artists. I mean, it is no secret that the National Arts Council had to be closed for a number of years due to funds embezzlement and corruption.
Back in 2017, after the resurrection of the NACN, a call was made for artists to apply for grants in different genres. Many of us who applied for the literature category ended up being engaged in some ping-pong game against our National Arts Council. At the end of this unfriendly game we were finally told that ‘’Namibian writing is substandard’’ therefore the grant will be suspended until further notice. That ‘’further notice” never came. In fact, for the subsequent call for grants, the “little creature” called literature was excluded.
From my standpoint, the National Arts Council is run by bureaucrats who only care and cater to a specific circle of artists. And from your association with that circle of artists, you derive your definition of what art is. You think art is all about entertainment. What Mr Frederick Freddie Philander bemoaned recently that musicians (celebrity Swapo musicians) are not the only artists in the country and funding should focus on all artists from various categories, is very true.
You administer the NACN like a marketing and promotional tool for the Facebook pages rather than as an organisation that should create an enabling environment for the creative talents in real Namibia. Grants are micro-managed to such an extent that they are not grants but an extension of your programs and sometimes your wishes and whims.
Your dictatorial approach to managing grants has the opposite effect that negatively affects the development of a sustainable arts industry. The NACN seem to rejoice in adding disenchantment and uncertainty in a climate where uncertainty and disenchantment are already so prevalent. We even wonder, for who do you exist?
I hope that the Covid-19 Relief Fund is not going to continue the worrying trend of organizations asking artists to creatively respond to some pandemic/disease for them to get funds.
That artists are not going to be told what and how to create. I even fear that, once again, you might handpick a publisher, in the case of literature, to compile an anthology of “substandard” quality like the recent one you collaborated with Unam press. The level of destabilization of an already fragile economic exchange between artist and funder is further highlighted because this action undermines the enormous amount of often unpaid work that independent artists and small organizations take in putting together applications.
These are just my thoughts with regard to the statuesque of funding and management of funds by the NACN. As a matter of fact, I already know that some of us will not get the funds simply because we don’t belong to the incredible circle of ‘friends’ who are repeatedly favoured as far as funding is concerned in Namibia.
As you can see, Mr Patrick Sam, I’m not against you but against the culture of corruption that is prevalent in our Namibia and that I’ve hoped you, as a revolutionary and a visionary (as newspaper articles describe you), would transcend.